College: The Drunkest Years

I have a theory that as rules tighten and law enforcement increases in college towns regarding alcohol consumption (in the name of safety), the students are actually put in more danger.

Trust me, I went to college for six years.

I mean okay, so it was six years just for a bachelor’s degree. But I earned my doctorate in drunken mischief.

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Whatever you’d call it, I participated. I’ve been called an instigator more than twice. I’ve been on both sides of of peer and pressured. I joined a fraternity and abided by the guidelines set out in my favorite films, Animal House and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I’ve been arrested more than twice. Which meant I hired an attorney more than twice.

Try everything once and the good things twice, right?

Alright, so I’ve overshot that expression more than twice.

But… I never found myself in any sort of trouble during those first two years.

No, in fact, the trouble never really ensued until the university and police department began cracking down on students both on and off campus around my junior year. It created, what the social science world would call… what’s that term? Oh that’s right, UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES.

As in, when the rules/enforcement became unnecessarily strict… two MIPs, a couple of arrests, a few nights in jail, and yellowpaging a number of attorneys, became a little more familiar to me.

Basically, I believe that clinging to something too tightly (see: “Hold On Loosely” by .38 Special) eventually hits a peak wherein you subsequently see diminishing returns. Eventually, even the best situations when overdone will go awry. It’s just too much of a “good thing”.

A candy bar after dinner? Sounds great.

Ten candy bars after dinner? Fuck that.

I believe the same applies to rules and restrictions regarding alcohol consumption, specifically in college towns across America. I speak only from my personal, subjective point-of-view, but as I’ve been a part of (and often a ringleader for) assorted functions, fuckups and mayhem in my six years, I at least have some knowledge from the field, so to speak.

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KNOWLEDGE.

I’ve seen what I perceive to work. And I’ve experienced what doesn’t.

Why is the preacher’s daughter often a big hit with the boys?

For that matter, Catholic school girls have a similar reputation (sorry to break the news, padre).

Why do people on diets gorge themselves until they’re catatonic once they’ve gone off the wagon?

Why did your daughter refuse that balloon right up until the point you gave it to her brother, Denise.

Nothing is desired more than something restricted or taken away from you. The same goes for college students who are continually repressed with increasing prejudice from experiencing the true curriculum of college: the process by which you mature and become an adult.

This, of course, through whatever means necessary; these are not broad-stroke statements that apply to everyone.

But the all-ecompassing truth is that college students are treated far too much like children. Beyond administration choosing to assume the role of babysitter for everyone’s ‘extracurriculars’, I’m also looking at you, trigger warnings and safe spaces (#notmypresident… grow up.). All the degrees, paperwork, lectures, and powerpoint projects are just fine. But there’s just no substitute for life experience.

Alcohol is simply a life experience. Feel free to try and explain how alcohol consumption isn’t necessarily going to have an effect on everyone on the planet.

Mormons don’t drink. (yeah me neither *wink wink*)

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In fact, many religious folks abstain. (Despite many references to wine and parties, one stocked by Jesus himself.)

*sighs* Look jackass, some people just choose not to imbibe due to personal beliefs, family members, bad experiences, etc.

Well, I hear what you’re saying, but I have to say that I disagree. You may not touch a drop of liquor for the whole of your life. But you can bet your dumb ass you’re going to deal with a lot of drunk fucks. This is a shared experience by the whole of the planet in one capacity or another. Whether you’re personally partaking or not. People enjoy drinking. People enjoy taking drugs. They always have (check your history books, nerds). They always will. It’s just a part of our nature, and our consciousness is worth exploring.

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art credit: “The Edge” – Black Ink Art

During my Freshman and Sophomore year (which, admittedly was spent primarily drinking Jungle Juice and Purple Jesus [oh sweet Purple Jesus] out of a trashcan mixed with ten bags of ice) my fraternity brothers and I would often go on a walkabout (y’know, just to check out the local scene). Thursday through Sunday, the streets at all hours of the night would be flooded. Enforcement of the laws governing underage drinkers was mostly reserved for those who would cause actual trouble and those who were a danger to themselves or others… the way it should be (logically, the same attitude should apply to other substances, but I digress). The point is that most of us in the streets walked around with little to no concern or danger, and in general, it was simply entertaining.

As my Junior year rolled around, I noticed that unless it was Halloween, seven nights a week, the streets would be empty. A few stragglers here and there, but they were just headed to another house party. All was calm in the streets, seems awfully safe right? To borrow a phrase from our President*:

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In reality, the exact opposite effect had occurred. Outside, all was calm. Inside, everybody was three (or four…or ten) sheets to the fuckin’ wind. They had nowhere to go. For all intents and purposes, there was no escape. If they got caught drunk and underage just walking around outside, it’s a Minor-In-Possession charge. A misdemeanor in the state of Oregon, and two of them in less than a year and you lose your drivers license for a whole year.

Side note: This rule is only applicable if you’re between the ages of 18 and 21. Why? Who the actual fuck under the age of 21 needs a drivers license more than those in that age bracket? It’s worth mentioning that this rule applies whether cars were involved or not. They jack your drivers license because they can.

These students are still trying to figure how the world works and how they fit in it all. They’re discovering what it’s like to finally be on their own, and now they’re trapped in townhouses, fraternities, live-outs, apartments, dorms, and international housing with alcohol as their only escape.

Scenario: Someone’s having trouble waking up due to excessive consumption?

“Who’s calling the ambulance? I’m not. Can you? Well no, I’m not going to either, I got an MIP at Winter Formal two months ago. So you aren’t going to call either? Is anybody willing to call? The cops might show up and hand out a few MIP’s though if we stick around. Well somebody’s got to call, our buddy here isn’t looking too good…”

This is a conversation that shouldn’t exist. But it absolutely does. Far more often than you would imagine. For many, the fear of being caught while ‘breaking the law’ (see: Judas Priest) will take precedence over someone’s survival.

“Don’t call the cops or the medics, I’ve seen this before, I’m sure he’ll shake it off in the morning.”

“Toss him the shower and just check on him periodically.”

“Nah, he’s fine dude, I’ve been there many times before. I’m sure this is the same thing. He’s going to be fine, don’t fuckin’ call anyone.”

“Boy, this dead guy on our floor really killed the vibe.”

Furthermore, I believe that there is a nearly perfect inverse relationship between suppression and responses to that suppression. The stricter the rules become, the larger the reaction to those rules. The faster the fastball, the larger the homerun. More resistance is built up which can result in greater danger to the students. Rules that can enforce but tend towards being more lax allow for students to exercise their own pressure relief valves (whatever they may be). Without that pressure relief valve, all that shit from midterms is going to build up and you’re going to have a disaster on your hands (translation: venting prevents explosion, folks). Imagine, if you were a college student who had every night of the week to drink, your choice to drink on any given night would have less importance and you’d be more apt to skip a few nights because the option is always there. However, if you were restricted down to drinking only one night per week or one night per month, I’m willing to bet that you’d get fucked up proportionally. I’ve seen it countless times. It’s basic economics, folks.

If you could only eat pizza one day per year, wouldn’t you heroically over-consume on Pizza Day?

Let’s apply that theory. Rather than treating drunk undergrads like criminals, wouldn’t it be more beneficial to provide them with instruction and medical attention if needed, but allow them to grow up without marks on their record; marks that could affect their future significantly? Again, if real crimes are being committed, bust the fucks. If medical attention is needed, pump the fucks. If not, let them learn for themselves the hard way about what happens when you partake a little too liberally.

Hangovers are a great teacher.

Drunk texts and/or phone calls from the night before are great teachers.

Tagged photos on the internet are great teachers.

Blacking out can be terrifying and a great teacher.

Embarrassing interactions half-remembered the morning after are great teachers.

“Dude, do you remember _____________ you sick fuck?” is a great teacher.

Life itself is a brilliant teacher if you’re open to it. But tightening the leash on young people just trying to find their way in the real world and treating them like children with curfew and a swear jar is bullshit.

To learn is better than to be told.

Drink responsibly.

But if you don’t, make sure you’re going to learn something from it. And always make sure that the story is going to be worth it.

Thompson | 4.11.17

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