Drinking culture should not define our university

Image By: Katie Scheidt and Katie Scheidt

The start of a new school year. The celebration of a Badger football game. The birthday of a lab partner’s roommate’s pet fish. The ability to dress like a workout “bro” or a yoga “hoe.” What do all these things have in common? They are all reasons, or some would say excuses, that students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison include alcohol in their college experiences. While some would say that kicking back and relaxing with a beer at the end of a hard week of classes—or getting black- out drunk because the previous week was so grueling you just want to forget everything—is just part of the Wisconsin experience, is it really necessary to fill every moment of your four years of college with alcohol?

This isn’t the time for me to say that alcohol shouldn’t be allowed on our campus and that underage students shouldn’t be utilizing their newly purchased fake I.D.s to sneak themselves onto every bar around campus. And I am not going to be lecturing you with points like “I don’t drink, so you shouldn’t either” or “find a friend group who chooses other activities over drinking.” I know the University of Wisconsin-Madison was recently ranked the top party school in the nation by the Princeton Review’s 2017 edition of “The Best 381 Colleges.” And that is definitely something to celebrate. But do we really need to fill every week, weekday and weekend with experiences centered on consuming endless amounts of alcohol?

Perhaps I should give a little more background on myself. Where I grew up there was a municipal liquor regulation which allowed only three liquor stores within our city that were run strictly by city government officials. While high school brought around post-football game parties, alcohol was a faint whisper that was only heard when you were near a popular kid who wanted to show off they had taken a sip once in their lifetime. Fast forward to my transition to Wisconsin and UW, and alcohol was no longer a faint murmur but was now a shout. Conversations were filled with parties people went to, how much they drank, what they drank, how wrecked they got and what their hangover was like the next morning.

I added my own voice to the daily consumption of alcohol and went to the dorm rooms, the tailgates and the “Risky Business”-themed parties. I’m not going to lie and say it wasn’t fun or that the whole time I was there I didn’t enjoy myself. I did. I understand why people drink and why they want to get past their limit to experience the night in a completely new way. But I found that the more and more parties I went to, I wasn’t focused on meeting new people, having a good time or being with my friends. My only thoughts were about the alcohol I was going to drink and how far I could push myself that night.

Going back to my main argument, I find it hard that as a student body of 40,000, everything we center our extra-curricular activities on has an undertone of alcohol. Every event outside of school has a possibility of getting wrecked for the sole point of getting wrecked. And while the student mantra of UW-Madison is “work hard, play harder,” I can’t seem to understand why students push themselves to play the hardest when it comes to drinking.

This isn’t the end of the article when I tell you tips to avoid drinking (such as locking yourself in your room and never being within 250 feet of alcohol) or implore you to put down your cup at the next party you are at. As the popular saying of 2016 goes, “you do you.” We are all adults here and you can do with your college experience what you want. But I do ask you to think the next time you’re getting ready for an “athletes or math geeks” party to question what your reasons are for drinking tonight. You can be the one to decide if it’s a reason or an excuse to drink—either way it’s up to you (I’m not going to follow each student on campus and ask them the question). Maybe if your excuse to drink is to get black out drunk for the fourth weekend in a row, you might want to reconsider. 

There are so many opportunities given to students here at UW-Madison, so why do all these opportunities and experiences have to be mixed with a shot of alcohol? With all the great things UW is known for, maybe we can add that students are able to have fun with and without alcohol.  

Lilly is a junior majoring in journalism and communication arts. How do you feel about UW-Madison’s drinking culture? Send all comments and questions to opinion@dailycardinal.com. 

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