Some things never change
There are certain things we University students know will never change; for example, Nextbus will never be dependable and the Grease Trucks will continue to be our greasiest claim to fame. But the one thing I am most certain of is that alcohol will continue to flow freely on Thursday and Saturday nights. The University has changed so frequently that many of its alumni would have a difficult time recognizing its current incarnation. It has changed from a school dominated by the Dutch Reformed Church to a place where religiously devout students feel outnumbered by 'godless liberals.' It has also morphed from a small, private, liberal arts college servicing a white male community to a state university best characterized by its massive size and diversity. However, no matter how much our school changes, I am willing to guarantee that it will continue its love affair with alcohol. Why is it that even after our community has poured countless resources into educating us about the consequences of drinking, we continue to binge drink?
There are many reasons why we drink, but I think the most convincing reason is the pursuit of ignorance; life is a lot more fun if you do not worry about consequences. We drink to escape many things - it could be the 10-page paper on Brazil we were recently assigned or even the parents who expect so much of us, but most often it is the anxiety our own thoughts create.
I have noticed that many of my more intelligent friends drink to give their minds a break from their rigorous schedules of intellectual second-guessing. There is no doubt that college students often feel as if they carry around the burden of the world on their shoulders. We begin to feel powerless in a number of different ways, we feel selfish for focusing only on our own career advancement and we feel unfulfilled by a life of classes and papers, not to mention the pressure to succeed (no matter how selfish it is). These things are constantly weighing on us, and after all, there is a lot of downtime on the REXB to beat oneself up about the world's troubles.
Conversely, those people who are not quite tortured by their worldview seem to drink to escape their basic inhibitions. No matter how lightly you take your venture into higher education, you will know the sacrifice your parents are making to allow you to enroll at the University. Even if you don't wrestle with an overactive intellect, you might feel a certain amount of guilt if your frat looks down upon your grade point average and you might just drink to escape from those thoughts. Overall, it seems that smart people drink to feel dumb, and people who do not need help to feel dumb drink to become absent-minded.
My theory about college drinking is not absolute because the traditional reasons for these habits still apply. Binge-drinking is considered an integral part of the college experience; in fact, many of the stories alumni tell when they are feeling nostalgic about the University involve alcohol one way or another. Just think about your first year here and how either you or your friends ended up with alcohol poisoning at a football game, much to the chagrin of upperclassmen who had already learned to hold their liquor.
Then there are the misconceptions as to what is a 'normal' or acceptable amount to drink - if there is one. Some silly desires to prove oneself - or even testosterone - seem to determine the norms for alcohol ingestion, leaving the acceptable limits surpassed on a regular basis. This period in our lives is also unique because we have both freedom and limited responsibilities, so we think 'why not?' Couple these factors with the fact that many of us use alcohol as an excuse for inappropriate actions and you have our Thirsty Thursday.
It is imperative to understand that alcohol use will never cease on any wet campus. Even more important is realizing that there is a cost associated with your escape. Life is hard now, but apparently it will just get harder, so by drinking are we not just setting a terrible precedent for the even more difficult times we may experience in the future? There are dire consequences to binge-drinking; there is the immediate risk of poor decision making that could result in catastrophic situations, alcohol poisoning, cirrhosis of the liver, stroke and even the disruption of sleep patterns, which many of us already struggle with. Nevertheless, the difficulties that come with collegiate life in tandem with the long-held binge-drinking culture on campus seem to mitigate the consequences of drinking for many of us.
My theory as to why we drink is based mostly on anecdotes so I could very well be wrong, and I welcome any feedback to help me better understand this dynamic. Nevertheless, I stand on the margin on this issue. I understand that many of us have unique perspectives on why we drink and I am also aware that many of my fellow students have not fully thought these issues out. I urge you, if you have not put any serious thought into the root causes of your drinking, do it immediately. You might find that you are making a tradeoff you cannot afford.
Omar Mansour is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.