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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thinkin' 'bout drinkin'

I hate the picture* above. The first time I saw it was in the film Haze, which is available for viewing from our Alcohol Web page and is shown to new members of social organizations each spring. My thoughts run rapid fire: Where were her friends? How did she end up like this? Who took this picture? Who posted it? Who left her there? What did she think when she woke up? Was she sexually assaulted? Will she ever know?

Every so often, it is important to re-visit a favorite past-time of college students. It can't hurt. Many are consumed by "consuming" anyways, so it is best not to ignore it. Getting students to invest in their own success can be a challenge. Getting them to be safe and look out for one another - in the face of so much pressure is another matter all together.

Prohibition didn't work. We are not anti-alcohol at Trinity, if for no other reason than that. People love their alcohol, despite some pretty compelling information (and images) that says we would be better off without it. If we were to start from scratch, would we choose to have alcohol in our culture? Any reasonable person couldn't argue in favor of it. But that isn't the drink we have been poured. So moderation is the key. Stressing that message is about all we have going for us, and it is a challenge in a perceived work-hard/play-hard setting like college. But we live in a world with alcohol, so we need to deal with it.

A couple years ago there was a movement to change the drinking age from 21 to 18. I am still not sure why those are the only two options. I like a 19-age-limit as it gets most through high school and freshman year. Enforcing alcohol policies as dictated by law is really difficult. We try to focus on the behavior that is disruptive and that usually leads to staff finding alcohol. We don't look for alcohol as a beginning point. But you have to enforce policy or you send mixed messages.

At Trinity, the majority of our enforcement happens in the first year area, where disruption doesn't mix well with new students trying to navigate the challenges of academics and independence. In the upper-class area, with most aged 21, we leave it to our students to control their environment. The Sophomore College environment is somewhere in between. Off-campus is another matter. Parties at private residences pose huge risks and our students often feel their consequences on campus. (Think DUI, vehicle accidents, sexual assault, and hospitalization for alcohol poisoning - all of which happened this past fall.)

We educators need to always be thinking about drinking. Most alcohol awareness programs have been shown to be ineffective. So in addition to thinking, we need to educate one another, to talk about it, and to try to save people from themselves.

This spring the Trinity Alcohol Coalition will re-convene to review our philosophy related to alcohol (we acknowledge students drink, we care about safety, and we enforce policies). Email me at  if you want to be included!

*sorry this is offensive. But it is, isn't it?


Libby said...

Thank you for posting this.
Libby L. C.

Maria said...

While I understand your viewpoint, and I completely understand the need to be aware of alcohol abuse, I feel like there's something that's being overlooked here.

I'm a 21 year old, female Trinity student. I don't really go to parties, I don't like to get "wild and crazy" with my friends, but I do like to drink occasionally. And by that, I don't mean get so drunk that I don't remember things or that I'm falling down/bumping into people or making a fool out of myself.
As cliche as this might sound, I like to get "buzzed" - not drunk, and I think most of the people in my circle of friends feel the same way. We're not irresponsible about it, even when we do get more than a little buzzed. (Mostly because of seeing/hearing about other friends and students suffer the consequences of being irresponsible).

Many times when alcohol is discussed, I feel like people assume those in my age group only drink to excess. But that's not true, and I don't think it's fair to ignore those of us who are responsible drinkers.

I just ask that when the Trinity Alcohol Coalition is rethinking things, that they take students like myself into consideration. We're not all like the girl in the picture.

David Tuttle said...


Well put. In fact, I was going to include some statistics on this but got lazy. According to Dr. Reams, in Counseling, the About one third of our students don't drink. About 20% are fairly regular or heavy drinkers. The rest, presumably, are like you! This context is important to include. I like the Buzz word, pun intended. In fact, I added the Optimal Buzz link under "moderation," now, as I meant to include that as well. (Let me know if you want on the coalition!)

Anonymous said...

Parent of a current Trinity Student, will remain anonymous so as not to embarrass them.

Dear Maria:
Drink regularly and you will develop a tolerance for alcohol. "Getting Buzzed" will take gradually more alcohol. Eventually, if you don't control it very carefully, it will control you.

Strongly recommend finding healthier ways of getting to that buzz. Exercise, Yoga and meditation can get you to the same relaxed, happy, buzzed state. Though admittedly it takes more effort, it is worth it.

Best of luck and blessings.