Getting Wasted: Why College Students Drink Too Much and Party So Hard

Getting Wasted: Why College Students Drink Too Much and Party So Hard

Getting Wasted: Why College Students Drink Too Much and Party So Hard

Getting Wasted: Why College Students Drink Too Much and Party So Hard

Excerpt

Getting Wasted is the product of over seven years of research and writing. Before I started this project in 2003, it never occurred to me to study university drinking cultures. Like so many people who live and work in college towns, I was well aware of alcohol’s mammoth presence on campus but I regarded heavy drinking among college students as obvious, self-explanatory, and inevitable. I think most people see college drinking in this way: “Of course they are getting wasted; they’re in college!” How has our society come to see college and drinking as synonymous? Maybe this is the case because our popular culture often depicts university life in this way. Animal House, a seminal film about a group of drunken, out-of-control, anti-intellectual fraternity guys, was a must-see movie for those of us who grew up in the 1970s. And most of the feature films about college life released since Animal House have reproduced similar themes. That is, most Hollywood depictions of college life suggest that it is all about drinking, sex, and finding ways to succeed without actually doing any “real” studying.

And maybe many people blindly accept the “college is drinking” theme because that is how university culture was originally presented to them by parents and older siblings. When I was a high school student in the early 1980s, my friend and I visited my older sister at Gettysburg College, a wellrespected liberal arts school in Pennsylvania. Let’s just say that we didn’t tour the library, perform scientific experiments, or explore the mysteries of mathematics while we were there. As far as I could tell from my brief weekend visit, many Gettysburg students were getting hammered as if their lives depended on it. A couple of years later, in 1984, I enrolled as a freshman at Indiana University. I am a proud Indiana alumnus. There are many outstanding academic programs, faculty, and students there. But, make no mistake about it, there was (and still is) some serious partying going on there. And I never questioned it. Alcohol just appeared to be a necessary part of the social and cultural landscape. Furthermore, I don’t remember university administrators, parents, or social critics fretting much about alcohol abuse on campus in those days. It was a “given.”

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