LOPEZ: It’s not polite to stare

Alex Lopez

Probably the biggest difference between high school and college is the latter’s huge engagement with the culture of drinking. Although many high school students drink, it appears that both the number of people drinking, as well as this overall fascination with drinking, increases dramatically at college.

The Centers for Disease Control and Protection’s website reports that four in every five college students drink, while two out of five binge drink (as defined as four or more drinks for female students and five or more drinks for male students.

According to Public Safety’s 2008 Annual Security Report, last year 227 students were caught violating Liquor Law Drunkenness, and 61 students were caught violating Liquor Law Possession. In addition, 934 students were referred to the Dean of Students for liquor violations. These numbers are significantly lower than the average given by the CDC. This means that either Villanova students do not drink nearly as much as the national average or that the majority of students are simply not getting caught.

But regardless of statistics, one need only step outside to see the way students are drawn to drinking culture at Villanova. When a student is evaluated and subsequently taken to a hospital by VEMS for intoxication, there is a flood of students rushing from all the residence halls on South Campus to watch and gawk at this student who overdid it. Some even “slow clap” the person being transported to the ambulance, as if an evaluation by VEMS was a type of prize or award worthy of applause. Others then try and catch up on all the alcohol-related mishaps they did not see personally by immediately turning to the police blotter section of The Villanovan. The health of the student often appears to be an afterthought.

However, there is nothing funny or praise-worthy about being intoxicated to the point of needing to be transported by VEMS to a hospital. According to the CDC, excessive consumption of alcohol among the age group 12-20 years old is a significant factor contributing to the three leading causes of death for this age group: unintentional injury, homicide,and suicide. Furthermore, it is highly socially irresponsible when the cost of a hospital bill at Bryn Mawr Hospital can be upwards of $1,000. Thus, staring at and praising students while they are being transported by VEMS is insensitive, socially negligent and completely unnecessary.

Maybe the University should simply replace WildCard swipe access to residence halls with a breathalyzer test. Otherwise, is there a plausible way to diminish the presence of underage and binge drinking on campus?

Possibly. College presidents in New Jersey, as well as other private colleges, recently discussed the potential of lobbying to have the drinking age lowered to 18 in the United States, as it is in many European countries. They argue that without having to focus on concealing alcohol consumption, students are much more likely to drink safely and responsibly.

Even if students under this policy drink more often in terms of number of days, studies show that in European countries such as Italy and Greece, students drink less each time and are much less likely to binge drink or pose a danger to their health.

There is something to be said about attempting an alternative plan. Prohibition on college campuses in the United States has clearly been unsuccessful.

Attempting to scare students by making the links between alcohol abuse and other drugs, cigarettes and poor decisions has also been unsuccessful.

If this plan has the potential to eliminate unhealthy binge drinking, shouldn’t it at least be attempted?

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Alex Lopez is a freshman from Peekskill, NY. He can be reached at [email protected]