Alcohol not the blame for unpopular Friday classes

By Christopher Blake
November 1, 2007

Megan Pellegrino

Keg stands, flip cup, beer pong, power hour, shots and mixed drinks. For many college students alcohol is a popular weekend activity. But since when is Thursday night the weekend?

For many colleges and universities around the country drinking on “Thirsty Thursday” is becoming a problem. In fact students are beginning to skip Friday classes all together.

Will scheduling Friday classes reduce partying on Thursday nights? This is what some administrators around the country think. At Cabrini, faculty and administrators are not so sure.

In fact, 3.8 million full-time college students or a total of 49 percent regularly abuse drugs or binge drink (consuming five or more drinks at a time for men, and four or more drinks for women) according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

But on what days are students drinking?

The University of Iowa, which is ranked twelfth on Princeton Review’s list of top party schools believes one of the most popular and damaging drinking days is Thursday.

A study released last July by the University of Missouri found that students are less likely to binge drink on Thursdays if they have Friday morning classes. Students who do not take Friday classes consumed twice as much alcohol on Thursday than those with early Friday classes.

“There are many programs on university campuses to reduce drinking,” Philip K. Wood, a substance abuse researcher, said on the University of Missouri Web site.

However, “Having more Friday classes, early Friday classes or tests on Friday seem to be a pretty cost-effective way of reducing college drinking. Essentially, your academic class schedule starts to interfere with that drinking behavior.”

In order to curb drinking on Thursdays the University of Iowa will start holding more classes on Friday starting in fall of 2008. Other schools may choose to follow their lead.

“Thursday night drinking is a problem found at colleges and universities throughout the country,” Dr. Charlie McCormick, dean of academic affairs said. “I teach a class Wednesday and Friday morning at 8:15. My students always seem alert and engaged in class.”

“We are trying to offer a robust schedule of classes for students on Friday,” McCormick said. “If the University of Iowa finds success in their scheduling changes then it should be noted.”

“I don’t feel drinking on Thursday is just a Cabrini phenomenon but a cultural trend,” Dr. Cynthia Halpern, professor of romance language, said. “I believe our students are responsible but if we added more classes on Friday they would respond positively and the consumption of alcohol would decrease.”

“The attendance in my Friday morning class drops but no more than five percent. In my class students have a limited amount of cuts and my tests are on Friday. If a student does not attend then there are no make-up exams,” Dr. James R. Hedtke, chairman of history and political science, said.

“You can tell when there has been a Thursday when a lot of students have been out drinking,” Hedtke said. “People avoid Friday classes like it’s a plague. But interestingly enough Friday morning classes are more popular than those on Friday afternoon. Cabrini could have Jesus of Nazareth, Gandhi and Moses teach a religious studies class on Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. and students would not attend.”

“I have two classes on Friday, one at 11 a.m. and one at 2 p.m. Having quizzes every Friday at 11 is overall a good way of getting my students out of bed and to class,” Dr. Eric Malm, assistant professor of business administration said. “Generally attendance is better on Tuesday and Thursday but we never really know the reason. I would not blame everything on Thursday night drinking. Often students in Friday classes registered late and would prefer another time slot. Also, many of my students go away on the weekends and this lowers the Friday attendance rate.”

“Culturally Thursday night is becoming more and more popular even in the adult world,” Hedtke said. “Students will find out who doesn’t take roll in class, skip classes on Friday or just come to class hung over. This is not the silver bullet that will slay ‘Thirsty Thursdays.’ Students will figure it out.”

“Going to class is a student’s responsibility but faculty can create incentives such as Friday exams, class participation grades, etc. that will further motivate students to attend class,” Malm said.

“It is hard to tease out correlation from causation,” said McCormick. In other words even if attendance is lower than usual on Fridays it may not be because of alcohol. “Just because you have correlation doesn’t mean you have causation.”

“I hope that what motivates us to schedule classes is student learning not other problems that exist around campus,” McCormick said.”

Christopher Blake

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