Natural tendency toward drinking on campus being taken lightly

Natural tendency toward drinking on campus being taken lightly

By:
09/10/2014

In the fall of 2011, I arrived at Georgetown. I was full of excitement for the grand adventure I was going to embark on at this lauded institution. I had no idea what to expect and spent much of my first week highly anticipating the weekend, when I would finally find out what all these college kids did for fun. Oh boy, was I in for a treat.

After class on our first Thursday of the year, I joined some of my new neighbors to talk about plans for the weekend. I went in ready to hear what was in store, but I was slowly filled with confusion and, admittedly, a streak of brief panic when everyone started referring to things that made little sense to me. Instead of embarrassing myself in front of potential new friends, I retreated back into my room with my questions still echoing around in my head. 

How are they going to pregame if there aren’t any soccer or football games until next week? Are the handles connected to something or is that just some game they play in college?

As Friday night finally arrived, the unbridled disbelief at the scene unfolding before my eyes was crushing. I came back to my cluster on the eighth floor of Harbin and immediately realized that all plans were focused on drinking alcohol. My friends asked if I wanted to go out and drink, but I told them that I don’t drink and that I guess I would just sit out this time. I told myself not every weekend would be like this and I would eventually find a way to socialize on weekend nights.

But as the weeks went by and nothing changed, I had to stop lying to myself. When word got around that I didn’t drink and didn’t want to join in on parties with alcohol, most of my fellow students decided I wasn’t a lot of fun and wouldn’t make a good addition to their friend group. 

After hearing stories of how student clubs made you drink on initiation night, I threw out the fliers I picked up at SAC fair and figured it would be best not to join anything. Georgetown’s drinking culture got in my head early, and at 17 years old, I didn’t stand a fighting chance.

To say that Georgetown has an underage drinking problem is about as much of an understatement as saying our tuition is high. Freshmen face little resistance when it comes to finding and consuming alcohol, which enforces a culture that not only condones unwise, unhealthy, and immature behavior, but also marginalizes those who choose not to buy into it. Unfortunately, GUSA executives Trevor Tezel and Omika Jikaria made it a whole lot worse last week.

While GUSA is supposed to be advocating for all of Georgetown’s students, they chose only to give freshmen who drink more to cheer about when they helped enact a new policy that allows alcohol violations to be wiped from disciplinary records during a student’s first year, as long as they complete certain sanctions. It is widely understood that freshmen are going to drink, whether it’s against the rules or not, but the threat of having violations on their record was one of the main deterrents keeping alcohol abuse among freshmen from getting out of control. 

GUSA and the University administration are terribly misguided if they think that freshmen are going to take their misdemeanors as a learning experience and not just a free pass to be even more belligerent. This new policy tells them that they don’t need to worry about being caught intoxicated or in possession of alcohol because they can just complete some sanctions and all other repercussions will vanish. 

When I received the press release detailing this news, I despaired for the current freshmen who choose not to drink and are currently finding out for themselves just how hard it is to fit in at a place where alcohol is the cornerstone of socializing. Tezel was quoted in the press release as saying, “This change makes the Code of Student Conduct fairer for students.” Fairer for whom, though? It doesn’t seem too fair to the minority of freshman who leave alcohol out of their lives and now have to deal with the subsequent strengthening of the drinking culture that will follow this change.

Seeing the new direction that is being taken makes me more relieved than ever to be in my last year here. Each semester, I become more and more disheartened over how integral alcohol is to socializing at Georgetown. I guess the problem has become so serious that the administration must admit defeat and lighten consequences to alcohol violations. For a university that so vigorously touts its Jesuit values to incoming freshmen, I thought that, maybe, it would hold its commitment to student life in higher esteem. 

 

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Steven Criss


7 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Natural tendency toward drinking on campus being taken lightly”

  1. Avatar Matt says:

    lame

  2. Avatar Angry senior says:

    Steven,
    There is so much wrong with this article I don’t even know where to begin. To start, you clearly haven’t done enough research before writing this article and or thought about the implications of your words. You have no write to put down Trevor and Omika who GENEROUSLY dedicate their time to serving the school. How dare you call into question their motives behind even a single policy. The new policy regarding sanctions allows individuals who may have been caught in an awkward situation and or made a dumb mistake in their first few weeks at Georgetown wipe that blemish from their record. Maybe you haven’t researched enough to actually know what the implications of being written up are, because I’m assuming you’ve never been written up yourself (please pat yourself on the back), but no matter when you were written up or what you were written up for, you have to disclose that information on applications to any higher education opportunities. I myself was written up for an alcohol sanction within the first few weeks of freshmen year. Not only was I not drinking, but I had just arrived at the Harbin dorm when I got written up. Now, you may be perfect and never have done anything wrong in your life, but that was a very scaring incident for me and I know many others who have had similar incidents that were merely mistakes. Secondly,you clearly closed yourself off to Georgetown social life as a freshman and that’s entirely your fault. I know plenty of people who choose not to drink and are actually able to go out and socialize and join organizations. That is more a testament to an individual’s personality than to the larger social culture of Georgetown. I really resent the fact that you think it’s okay to make such sweeping statements regarding Georgetown’s social culture when you’re clearly so uneducated. Have you ever even been initiated into anything? Probably not, because I can tell you that not ONE organization on campus forces students to drink against their own will. Is there drinking involved at a lot of initiations? Yes, absolutely. But, bear in mind that we are in college and drinking will be a part of any social culture. Every single organization on this campus is willing to accommodate all types of students, including those who choose not to drink. Thirdly, most students at Georgetown go out two nights a week. That leaves 5 other nights where all social activities do not revolve around alcohol. Perhaps you would benefit from looking at yourself and how you socialize. Perhaps it is more your choices in the past few years that have led you to judge other Georgetown students in this way, and perhaps you probably should have chosen a different university. Please don’t write an article like this again. Not only is it entirely uneducated, but it just makes you look like a miserable person.

    • Avatar Angry senior says:

      *right and *scarring Clearly in my frustration to dispute every single thing you said I’ve struggled with some spelling. My apologies.

    • Avatar Tori says:

      It’s an opinion piece not a police report.

    • Avatar Steven Criss says:

      Hello “Angry senior,”

      Thank you so much for commenting on my article. I guess I should take your response point by point. I have actually thought quite a bit about the implications of my words and as it’s clear that you yourself have not done so, I will help you understand. First of all, I mean no ill will toward Trevor and Omika, as they are very respectable representatives, but that does not mean the policies they work to implement are flawless. It sincerely worries me that you think that not “even a single policy” should be questioned… What kind of student representation would that lead to if no one ever questioned them about their policies? By your logic, since they are nice and hardworking people who dedicate their time, students should never speak up about their opinions on policies. I have not talked to either of them about this, but I have a strong feeling that not even Trevor and Omika would support your notion that their ideas should not be challenged. How else do we work to improve policy ideas?

      I do understand the intended purpose behind this new policy and I know the consequences of being written up. Unfortunately, a policy change can have more than just one effect to it—one of those being the marginalization of those who don’t drink. I’m curious, though, as I have not been able to find this statistic, how many students are rejected from higher education institutions because of a first offense write up? I would really like to know and I think having that number would make for improved debate. You’re right that I have never been written up and it sounds like you were caught in a tough spot that night in Harbin. I want to thank you for bringing up your own story, though, as it lends itself well to the point I was trying to get across. You were written up because you were at a dry dorm in the presence of alcohol, even though you weren’t drinking. You didn’t want to drink that night, but the get-together you were at had alcohol anyway. My point: Wouldn’t it be nice if those kinds of get-togethers didn’t need alcohol? I’m assuming that you went to Harbin that night to have fun and hang out with friends, but not to drink. Why do those two things have to be coupled with alcohol so much of the time? If that wasn’t the case, you could have had fun and hung out with your friends that night, instead of being written up. And since you said you know many people who have been in similar circumstances, that means that this problem could be solved for many others if the drinking culture was not so strong. Also, I’m flattered that you think I may be perfect, but I must not be that great because you really don’t seem to like my writing.

      You are 100% right that I closed myself off to Georgetown social life. I did not feel welcomed by the social scene here and, as a freshman, I was not courageous enough to face my concerns. That’s awesome that you and your friends are blessed with sociable personalities, but some of us are not so blessed. I was intimidated by the drinking culture and was not outgoing enough to challenge it. My point is that this culture is extremely discouraging to students who don’t drink. It is disappointing that you think students like me should be completely at fault for being who they are. It would have been great to have met all these friends of yours who don’t drink, yet still go out, but I guess I just wasn’t lucky enough to be in your friend group.
      No organization on campus “forces” students to drink (that would be illegal), but for the amount that it is encouraged during initiations, saying “no” separates you from the rest and causes people to cast questioning glances toward you (Don’t try me on this, it has happened to me too many times). I would not say that every single organization “accommodates” students who don’t drink. I would say they “tolerate” students who don’t drink. I’m going to take a shot in the dark and suggest that you are a student who chooses to drink because you are so far from understanding what it is like to be othered in this way that I am worried about how you treat your friends who don’t drink.

      Two nights a week huh? So what you’re saying is that every other night of the week there are non-drinking parties/events to go to? There aren’t even social events the rest of those nights, let alone ones where alcohol is not involved. If you happen to stumble upon one though, shoot me an email so I can join (sdc56@georgetown.edu). And perhaps I should have chosen a different university? Is that what I should tell prospective students? “If you want to have fun without the presence of alcohol or the pressure to drink, you better keep looking!” You are making it sound like people who don’t drink are not welcome here…hmm…maybe you should think about the implications of your words.

      Finally, I would like to ask you to please be a little more considerate when you write to others. I know that it’s easy to call someone a “miserable person” when you hide behind a fake name, but if you really believe what you say, put your name behind it. You have some very strong opinions (you could even submit a piece to Voices!), but I question how strictly you stand by them since you decided to hide behind anonymity. Words are sadly inefficient sometimes and therefore, if you want to discuss further, you should come by the office so we can talk in person. Our production nights are on Wednesdays and I’m in Leavey starting at 5 until very late.

      Again, thank you for commenting and sharing your thoughts. I’m really glad I have this chance to try to help others understand what a lot of us non-drinkers have to go through.

  3. Avatar Sober socialite says:

    Drinking, just like staying in, is for the most part a choice. Yes, peer pressure exists. Yes, drinking to excess is a problem across the country. But also yes, one can (speaking from personal experience) go to parties completely sober and have a blast. Until one can be comfortable and confident in one’s own choices, one will continue to feel discontented and write angsty opinion articles.

  4. Avatar Jeri Lyn Castillo says:

    Steven,
    Thank you for your article and college experience at George Town.If you can help one freshman next year to be strong like you Great Job.
    Jeri

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