The Binge Drinking Culture Starts and Ends with Us
USC might have a drinking problem.
Last week, the Daily Trojan published an article, “To the Brim: How USC is fighting a stubborn culture of binge drinking,” detailing the ways the University hopes to stem the tide of dangerous drinking behavior that is putting students’ lives at risk.
Based on numbers collected from a 2014-2015 AlcoholEdu Impact Report, nearly a third of undergraduates are participating in “high-episodic” drinking, classified as five or more drinks in males and four or more drinks in females in a short time period, by 45 days into the semester. And in the first few weeks of this semester alone, there have been nearly 50 instances of alcohol-related transports. Most of these cases involved first-year students under the legal drinking age.
But these numbers can only frame part of the problem. Numbers can’t identify why a pervasive binge-drinking problem exists. Numbers can’t offer solutions. The University aims to fill that void with revised policy, regulation and alternative programming. Parents and outside spectators look to administrators to see how USC is going to fix student’s dangerous habits. The agency there, however, is severely misplaced.
The problem is not a lack of enforcement or rules. The problem is us.
See, USC can always do more. More rules, more activities, more policing and more education.
But at what point do we, as students and members of this campus community, take some of that responsibility? At what point do we tell ourselves, “It’s time to change?”
It’s time. We need to stop relying on others to tell us how and when to change, and take actual steps toward a healthier relationship with alcohol.
Most of us don’t come to college with this behavior — not even close. Incoming freshmen don’t arrive at USC with an innate binge-drinking culture mentality. In fact, according to the aforementioned report, 59 percent of incoming freshmen arrive as non-drinkers. But at that 45-day mark, it’s down to 44 percent.
At USC, it is undeniable that drinking is embedded in our campus culture. On game days, tailgates happen directly under the windows of freshman dorms as early as the first weekend of fall semester. Parties abound throughout both the Row and off-campus houses that often cater to both underage and excessive drinking behavior, offering those living under University housing jurisdiction a place to escape from residential policy.
It’s on us, then, to create an environment where we all work to reduce dangerous binge-drinking activity. It’s on us to create a culture where taking five shots before heading to the main event isn’t considered the norm.
This can all be done in small but monumental ways.
To create a safer community, students should embrace the amnesty policy, which allows for reporting of alcohol-related incidents without the threat of punishment, and keep other people safe as well as ourselves. We’re all affected by binge-drinking culture as students, and when we see our peers drink too much, we can’t choose to ignore the signs to avoid disciplinary action.
Alcohol poisoning comes in many forms. Recognizing what it looks like, how to prevent it and what to do if you encounter it are fundamental to eradicating a stubborn drinking culture.
And when students do drink, consider the happy medium between sobriety and blacking out. Pacing the party is much more beneficial than front loading all of your alcohol intake at the pregame.
Ultimately, the power lies with us to reverse the momentum on a dangerous drinking culture that has pervaded university life for two decades. The question now is, are we up to the task?
September 29, 2016