Life in the drinking culture

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Kit Fitzgerald

katherine-fitzgerald@uiowa.edu

I normally enjoy frat parties, which tend to have good music and a fun atmosphere. But by the end of the night, I might be holding my friend’s hair while she throws up, wondering whether to call an Uber or an ambulance.

As a freshman in a sorority at Iowa, I like participating in the greek system on this campus. I have met amazing people and created unique bonds. I’d be lying if I said I also didn’t enjoy the party life.

However, through greek parties and events, I’ve seen a side of Iowa’s party scene that can be worrisome, and in some cases, dangerous. The recent ban of alcoholic greek events is the first step to creating a safer drinking culture.

It might be uncomfortable to call out one group for dangerous drinking when our entire school has a reputation for partying. Yet, greeks do play a larger role in this aspect.

In a study done by the National Institutes of Health, greek members engage in riskier health behaviors, such as binge drinking, than non-greek members.

Knowing this, I’ve started to pay attention to the differences between my partying versus my friends who are non-greek members.

For one, my weekends start on Thursday night with a social, even though I have class the next day.

Peer pressure does not play a large role in this decision. Academics are my top priority and same goes for most of my sisters. It’s just accepted that our weekend starts early. You get your homework done first. You adjust.

I attend fraternity parties rather than house parties or bars because it’s cheaper, and I don’t need to be out by 10 p.m.

Beer, despite being the safer option, is limited. It’s much easier to sneak a handle of vodka into a party than a keg of beer, so hard liquor is the way to go. Plus, it’s free. So you adjust.

I reported on an event a couple weeks ago in which guest speaker Jason Kilmer talked about alcohol use — specifically about the psychology of drink matching, which means people will subconsciously drink as much and as quickly as the others around them.

That’s how I’d describe drinking at frat parties. Nobody is pressuring you, nobody is telling you to drink. You just drink. You adjust.

As a result, I rarely attend a party where nobody throws up.

To be fair, drink matching and substituting beer for hard liquor are problems across campus, not just for greeks.

However, recent UI greek events have resulted in student injuries and property damages, which have prompted system authorities to speak up.

Leaders of Iowa’s Panhellenic and Interfraternity Councils released a joint statement banning all greek events with alcohol until further notice. Additionally, the statement immediately banned all out-of-state formals.

The ban itself won’t do much. Students are smart, especially when it comes to getting around the rules, and will find ways to hold parties and events.

The Panhellenic and Interfraternity Councils might know this, too, considering their bylaws already state that greek events with alcohol could not be approved finals week or the week before.

The statement banning alcoholic events was sent out May 1. The week prior to finals started on May 1, rendering the ban redundant for the remainder of the semester.

However, the ban is the best response to an out-of-control drinking culture. The greek community acknowledging the problem makes it a problem. Otherwise, this high-risk behavior would just be kids being kids. For most of my freshman year, that’s what I assumed.

I’ve accepted every aspect of the drinking culture without question, as most students have. Perhaps it’s time we as college students stop adjusting to a predetermined drinking culture and adjust the culture to suit our well-being instead.

The ban won’t stop students from drinking. But it’s a step in the right direction, to start dialogue about what will create a safer campus.

I hope this ban will prompt students to reflect on safety when going out. It will prompt new conversations about alcohol education and safety, and about how helpful the preventive university policies really are.

Above all, I hope this ban will prompt young people to think years into the future, rather than hours or minutes.

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