Drinking culture at UD, disguised as average

Danielle Damon – Sophomore, Communication

Hundreds of students, of drinking age and below, line the streets of UD’s student neighborhood. Hot Saturday afternoons often call for cold beer in hand and sports jerseys worn by day drinkers. Students socialize and participate in various drinking and drug related activities, but when the sun sets, the atmosphere changes. The clock strikes 11 and nightfall at UD calls for an outfit change and a new party scene— indoor house parties.

The use of alcohol and other drugs on college campuses is no secret. UD and other colleges alike experience similar student behaviors regarding alcohol and drug use, but UD’s pattern of use differs.

“Alcohol use is deeply rooted in campus culture in many institutions of higher learning,” Vernique Coleman-Stokes, Alcohol and Other Drug Intervention manager, said in an email interview. “What is unique about UD is the focus on community and our student neighborhood.”

“There are alcohol issues on most campuses that depend on the size of the college and their traditions,” Steven Mueller, Ed.D., assistant vice president of health and wellness and director of the Counseling Center, said. Mueller believes UD has some different problems with alcohol and drugs than other universities.

Mueller believes UD does not have the same drinking and driving problems that other universities have because UD is a smaller university and most students live on campus. UD’s campus is known for its

student neighborhoods that hold much of the community’s upperclassmen. Big schools often have more off-campus housing, resulting in off-campus parties as well. Mueller believes UD has more resident issues and a higher number of students taking part in “pre-gaming” than other colleges.

Peter Kania, sophomore board member of UD’s Club Six and accounting and operations management major, strongly believes UD’s drinking culture is different from other schools.

“I visited the University of Illinois where the drinking culture is more separated. You’re either part of it or not,” Kania said. “Here at UD the drinking culture is encompassing.”

According to a national survey, of the roughly 60 percent of college students who drank alcohol in the past month, almost two-thirds took part in binge drinking.

There are many reasons why students choose to drink or abstain from drinking. As Mueller said, the list is long and students may justify their usage as peer pressure, experimentation or social connection.

Coleman-Stokes wrote that students compare their drinking behaviors to other students, instead of focusing on scientific facts. Coleman-Stokes said students must stop basing their decisions off of ideology and re-evaluate their attitudes toward drinking.

“Binge drinking is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as five or more drinks for males and four or more drinks for females, in a given drinking episode,” Jacqueline Milling, Alcohol and Other Drug Intervention specialist for Community Wellness Services, said in an email interview.

Foundations Recovery Network defines social drinking as not being inherently bad, as long as the drinker “only consumes a few drinks.”

“Friends can pressure you into consuming more alcohol than you normally would in the following ways: drinking a round of shots together, playing drinking games or encouraging you to consume ‘just one more’ drink,” Foundations Recovery Network said.

However, Coleman-Stokes has found that although students may believe their drinking habits are social,

their perceptions of drinking may be skewed. She says students may believe they are just drinking socially to interact with peers, but in reality they do not understand that their drinking is high risk.

People abuse alcohol when someone continues to use regardless of the negative impacts the drug is having on their body and life, according to Michael’s House. Dependency is more serious, as this is where a user has a tolerance to the substance and cannot stop using.

Signs of alcohol and drug abuse can be recognized in a student when they are performing poorly in class, changing their behavior and experiencing loss of interest in extracurricular activities, Milling explained.

“Although some students drink heavily in college and may mature out of high-risk drinking during or following college, it is not clear who will end up crossing the line into addiction,” Coleman-Stokes wrote. “This is why we work with students to increase risk reduction knowledge and create healthier attitudes, behavioral intentions and expectancies around substance use, including abstinence.”

If students are interested in a non-substance using culture at UD that is underrepresented, Club Six is a student organization that provides substance-free events for students.

“For me, Club Six is about creating a more inclusive campus,” Bradley Petrella, sophomore international studies and Spanish major and Club Six board member, said. “I would like to give a friend an alternative to substance use by providing a way to step out of other situations,” Alexander Mingus, Club Six secretary and political science and human rights studies major, said. “Many college students think they have two options: to go out and drink or stay in and be a loser. We are trying to show people that there is something in between.”

For a confidential meeting to assess unhealthy drinking behavior, contact Community Wellness Services at 937.229.1233 or visit McGinnis Center, room 112. When experiencing alcohol or drug related issues, contact the Counseling Center at 937.229. 3141 or visit Gosiger Hall’s first floor. Visit here to learn more.