As many freshmen kiss their parents goodbye, for more than a few, visions of uninterrupted keg parties, unlimited liquor shots and games of beer pong come to mind.
“I expected more drinking. I’m not going to lie. I was a little disappointed,” Melissa Szymborski, freshman special education major, said about her orientation at Cabrini.
As students leave home for college this month, university administrators are not only preparing to deal with another year full of excessive drinking and alcohol-related mishaps on their campuses, but they feel they have found a solution to reducing excessive binge drinking.
“Twenty-one is not working,” a statement from 128 college presidents, said. “A culture of dangerous, clandestine ‘binge-drinking’ – often conducted off-campus – has developed.”
By lowering the legal drinking age presidents at colleges and universities around the country believe binge drinking and the consequences of drinking including sexual mishaps, violence, even death will decrease among their student populations.
College presidents from elite colleges and universities including Duke University, Dartmouth College and Tufts University have partnered up with the Amethyst Initiative to propose that our government officials rethink the legal drinking age of 21.
“The first night of school I was not obliterated drunk, but I did see a couple of students throwing up,” Szymborski said.
Colleges have found that excessive alcohol consumption interferes with a successful transition to campus life in and out of the classroom. One third of first-year students fail to enroll for their second year.
“My friends influenced me to drink from an early age,” Szymborski said. “There was nothing else for us to do, so that’s what we did.”
Szymborski, 19, described herself as a social drinker. During high school she regularly drank on the weekends. However, she has never allowed alcohol to control her life.
“I always know when enough is enough,” Szymborski said. “I never go over my limits.”
Although some Cabrini students drink alcohol, others have made the decision to not drink.
“I hear a lot of ‘Wow, that’s really cool. How do you do that? I could never,” sophomore Richard Cardoza said.
Cardoza, 19, has stayed away from alcohol since an early age. Growing up in a family with alcohol abuse history was enough for him to stay true to his inner pact.
“I chose not to drink mostly out of personal experience with my family members,” Cardoza said. “It’s just something I never really got into.”
Although some students allow alcohol to influence their everyday lives, Cardoza does not see alcohol in the same light. He does not know if he will choose to drink in the future or not. He takes life one day at a time.
“I don’t plan on making a decision to drink based on my age. It’s more of a thing where, if I want to, then I will,” Cardoza said.
Alcohol is a popular social activity on most college campuses. Students often feel a sense of peer-pressure to drink with their new acquaintances.
“It doesn’t really bother me not drinking in college,” Cardoza said. “Most of my friends would say that I’m just as enjoyable in drinking scenarios. If anything, college only solidified my decision not to drink even more.”
Tom Hayes, 20, has been drinking alcohol since late in his high school career. The junior also identifies himself as a social drinker.
“There must be at least one person in the room I’m drinking in,” Hayes said. “Whether they’re drinking or not is up to them.”
Hayes and a large majority of his friends drink but he never looks down upon non-drinkers.
“I do not look down on non-drinkers because throughout most of high school I did not drink either. It’s a choice and there are worse things than not drinking,” Hayes said. “You can still be a social person and interact with drunk and sober people. Now if you don’t drink and you have no personality, then you’re screwed.”
Although Hayes enjoys alcohol, he has seen the negative effects of excessive drinking.
“There are the times when people will get crazy, black-out style, including myself and not remember the chaos of the previous night, but most of it is harmless fun.”
“College students drink wherever their friends may be,” Hayes said. His drinking usually starts as soon as he knows he has nothing else to do for the rest of the day.
But the difference between Hayes and other students is he knows when to stop.
“If you let alcohol control your life, that’s considered an addiction, and I don’t have time for an addiction,” Hayes said. “It gets in the way of having fun and enjoying everything around you, you would miss otherwise.”
Shane Evans recently graduated from Cabrini in the spring of 2008. Evans, 22, started drinking at the age of 17. His experiences with alcohol have differed greatly throughout his high school, college and now post-graduate days.
“Freshmen want to drink more than everyone else because they aren’t adjusted to life in college and the freedom that comes with it,” Evans said. “They are na’ve and don’t realize the effect that alcohol will have on them.”
Evans feels Cabrini students drink responsibly but at the same time he wants to emphasize the importance of a balanced life.
“Don’t let alcohol run your life and definitely put your education first, because that is what you are paying all the money for, not to get drunk every night,” Evans said.