Underage drinking risky, but inherent aspect of mainstream college culture

Young adults are all too familiar with hazardous party situations, whether in high school, at home or in Geneseo. Our administration strives to raise awareness of the risks of alcohol and drugs through freshman orientation programs and anti-hazing programs for Greek life members. These programs encourage students to make safe and smart decisions when faced with difficult situations. In 2013, Geneseo’s Responsible Community Action Policy de-penalized under-the-influence students who call campus police for help. This is a progressive and appropriate initiative for handling the consequences of underage drinking. But other than offering motherly advice and support services, what more can an administration do? Some argue not much. As long as consuming alcohol remains an integral part of campus culture, it will continue to be the responsibility of students to utilize the services and education offered to them.

West Virginia University recently suspended all Greek life activity on campus until further notice after 18-year-old freshman Nolan Michael Burch was found unresponsive at a Kappa Sigma fraternity house, and later died in a local hospital. This temporary suspension is more reactionary than it is helpful or successful. Students can drink in other clubs and organizations, even under the administrative eye.

While technically preventable, alcohol-related deaths seem nearly impossible to prevent in practice. It is a difficult issue to address. Older generations cry of an underage drinking epidemic, but in reality underage drinking is no more an epidemic than it is the norm.

To find a college in the United States without underage drinking is like searching for the Holy Grail; we want to believe in its existence but we must face the improbability. Even dry campuses such as SUNY Oneonta are only alcohol-free in theory.

Geneseo has an underlying drinking culture, even amongst the well-intentioned preventative efforts of administration. When it was an operating bar and club, the Inn Between Tavern was only a few feet away from the under-construction Bailey Hall; it was practically a part of campus. On weekends, residence halls on the north side of campus are busied with foot traffic from enthusiastic partygoers on their way to the IB’s adopted replacement, The Statesmen.

This is neither praise nor condemnation for these businesses—it is an observation of our social culture closely aligning itself with drinking. It is not the fault of the administration that partying is the most popular pastime at a small rural school plagued by months of cold weather.

It is painfully improbable to have a future generation of college students dedicated to saving their livers until they turn 21 years of age. Being gluttonous and carefree is basically the American Dream for the college generation.

So if the partying continues—which of course, it will—it is the responsibility of students to be educated and prepared. If students insist on their maturity and confidence to drink, they must also have the maturity and confidence to recognize problematic situations and react appropriately.

It is a shame that tragedies occur so easily—one last drink can be the decisive factor in a dangerous situation for anyone on this campus, Greek or non-Greek. But unfortunately, college culture makes it extremely difficult to enact any significant change.

Geneseo’s administrative efforts are neither futile nor monumental. Schools like West Virginia University have recognized the problems but do not know how to create lasting solutions. It might be better to understand that some things are beyond administrative control; that those students who support the drinking culture are more engaged in a fantasized idea of the dream college experience. Students hear the warnings and absorb the statistics, and whatever they do with that knowledge is ultimately their responsibility.