A cup of . . . something was thrust into my hand. I wasn’t asked if I wanted any—it was assumed that I did. I looked around the room, and I noticed others at the meeting had begun to sip their drinks. Some finished quickly; most were pacing themselves. But it didn’t matter—mine still wasn’t disappearing like the others’. I was worried I would look out of place. I thought, maybe I’ll hold the drink in my hand . . . just for show.
Suddenly, a girl arrived at the meeting, late. I heard chanting:
“ ‘LATE’ CHUG! CHUG! CHUG! CHUG!”
“Ugh, guys, I have a 9L tomorrow!”
“CHUG! CHUG! CHUG! CHUG!”
She tipped the cup, and in seconds, the pink drink was gone. Rinse and repeat.
A friend had invited me to the meeting, and everyone I met was kind and outgoing. But I was far too uncomfortable to stay. I glanced around the room. I put my still-full cup in the trash, and I darted outside, hoping no one would see me check out early.
I’m not going to have a conversation about why we drink at Dartmouth – at college. There are, most likely, a multitude of valid reasons for this: a desire to experiments, freedom from the rules of high school and parents, and many other causes I’m sure some Psych majors could help me investigate.
But I don’t know how valuable that conversation would be, as it seems alcohol is almost a given on the American college campus. Perhaps a more needed conversation would confront our culture’s relationship with those Keystone cans. It would convey how that relationship creates a space where alcohol is the core of the social experience. Where students feel the weight of intense peer pressure, and where dry parties are considered “boring.” Where, on a given weekend, some will deliberately use those plastic cups – sometimes with an extra ingredient – to dismantle cognition and commit acts of violence.
It is not the presence of those canse, but some of the hows and whys that scare and confuse me. This weekend I heard choruses of “I’m gonna get SO drunk tonight.” “I’m gonna be SO wasted.” Is the goal to drink and have fun with friends – or to have so much ‘fun’ that we don’t remember it?
Last year, my freshman fall, I had an interesting conversation with friends. One had mentioned that, before coming to Dartmouth, she hadn’t had alcohol. Another friend in the group was shocked.
“Wait… seriously? How did you have fun before you came here?”
She looked confused, and gave him a sort of shrug. “The same way I have fun now.”
Perhaps we as a community should be using alcohol in a way that complements, but doesn’t dominate, dictate, or eliminate our experience. Where students feel comfortable in a variety of social spaces, regardless of their level of use. Where spaces like Fuel and Sarner Underground are more widely used for what they were intended to be. And finally, where – whether there is alcohol or not – all members of our community are treated with dignity and respect.
~by Allison Puglisi