CAROLINE MAUL ’21
Across the country, the words “college life” bring forth connotations of fraternity parties, binge drinking, drugs, hookup culture, and other Animal-House-esque images. Media representations of college life glorify a lifestyle of sleepless, drunk nights and a general lack of responsibility (school related or otherwise). And it doesn’t stop there; the life goals of this generation often subconsciously consist of a life of wealth, expensive drugs, hypermasculinity, and an abundance of women who are nothing but pawns in this idealized picture, reminiscent of The Wolf of Wall Street. On our campus, the use and abuse of substances is undeniable and rampant. Every weekend, Vernon Street is littered with red solo cups and their intoxicated owners. From anywhere on campus between the hours of 9 p.m. and 2 a.m., the sound of club remixes and EDM can be heard wafting through the air, from Allen Place to Vernon to the Chapel to Summit.
It is hard to escape this culture, and those who do stay out of the crowded frat basements have their own vices – smoking weed in their dorms, girls’-nights-in with pink rosé.
So what are the implications of this alcohol-reliant society? Is it all just college fun, free of consequences? Or is there more going on? College students around the world seem to live life under the impression that because of our sheltered, campus-contained living situation and excessive freedom, we cannot possibly face physical or disciplinary consequences for our rowdy lifestyles. We are invincible in our own minds, and this liver-killing blip on the timelines of our lives is just a rite of passage into adulthood. The reality of the situation is much more grim: excessive use of alcohol and recreational drugs does not magically become harmless once it is occurring within the campus gates. Addiction and dependency is still dangerously possible.
Even so, our society refuses to believe this reality, and I might go as far as to say that we exempt college students from the judgement that one would face if they were dealing with addiction or alcoholism in a different context. In the world outside of our campus, drug addiction and alcoholism are looked down upon and harshly judged. College students, however, are not viewed with such scrutiny. We are almost expected to partake in these dangerous, often illegal, activities; it is a staple of the American college experience. So from where do these attitudes stem? In a sense, aren’t we alarmingly privileged if our record-high tuition fees are being spent on a reckless, even mindless way of living? I would argue that the short and rather obvious answer to this question is yes. As a member of this campus community and an individual who is in no way above the assessment that I have laid forth, I often find myself feeling guilty that I am not spending every waking minute on academics, guilty that I indulge in careless behavior when it is an immense economic strain for me to be here.
I am unsure what there is to do or say about this culture. It is a culture so deeply rooted in a tradition of college party going and the idealized American college experience, in which students are above addiction, above dependency, and above serious medical consequences. I think that it is long overdue that we have actual, honest discussions about the life-threatening issues that stem from these behaviors, rather than sweeping all of it under the rug and dismissing it as harmless collegiate fun. We are only human, after all, and our status as students, sheltered and more naive than we’d like to think, is no force field against danger.