It’s game day. The Michigan football team is about to take on that school down south and I’m walking down an eerily quiet State Street. The bros are depressingly situated on their porches playing an exhilarating game of chess and praying for the end of this forsaken day. Down near Hoover Street is no better. The familiar body-shaking bass has become a thing of the past, as the usually jubilant houses seem vacant. The tenants peer suspiciously out their windows, eyes darting left to right, seeking remnants of the jovial parties that no longer exist here at the University.
Seeing that nothing on campus is worth my time, I head back to Greenwood to check on my roommates, wondering if they had somehow found a way to make light of our current situation. The street no longer glistens in the sun with broken beer bottles and the emblematic shoes on the telephone lines hang without new company because of a seeming lack of motivation by the residents of the street. As I approach my house I see that one of my roommates is standing out on our porch. His face is expressionless and a solitary tear trickles down his cheek.
This is the world that Daily columnist Tyler Jones wants us to live in (The battle for State Street, 9/17/2010). In his column, he applauded the University police for their increased efforts to issue tickets for underage drinking during Welcome Week. He even went as far as to call underage drinking on campus an “epidemic” and seemed almost smitten at the prospect of his fellow classmates receiving Minor In Possession charges.
I fully acknowledge that underage drinking is against the law in order to protect young adults from making foolish decisions. I also acknowledge that not everything on campus revolves around drinking — in fact I think that sober or not the campus would be every bit as excited to see Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson take on Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor in late November — but drinking is still a major staple in campus lifestyle. You can’t tell me that going out on a Friday night doesn’t make that calc exam you just took a little easier to swallow. And whether this mindset is — as Jones put it — a “crutch” or not, that’s how many students cope with the overwhelming stress that comes with a “world-class education.”
This past Welcome Week, the police saw it fit to have undercover cops roam campus and stop naive freshman who don’t know not to walk in the street with a cup full of beer. I even heard of one case where a student was lured off the safety of his porch only to be immediately asked for identification and promptly MIP-ed. I wonder if this is the best use of Michigan taxpayers’ money. Shouldn’t the police be more concerned with protecting students from real dangers instead of slapping them on the wrists with meaningless fines?
Now Jones laid out a couple of statistics in his article, arguing that “850 college students between the ages of 18 and 21 died in 2009 as a result of alcohol-related injuries.” But consider this: according to the United States Census, 6,800 drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 died as in car accidents in 2007. With this in mind, do you think it’s a fair assumption that Jones also thinks we should stop driving under the age of 21? Of course not, because that’d be both inconvenient and idiotic.
I’m not saying that drinking-related deaths are something to be sneered at, but I am saying that the University should consider educating its students (imagine that…) about the dangers of drinking instead of punishing them for this inevitable act. They should take their “Stay in the Blue” campaign to another level by not only stressing the life-threatening dangers of binge drinking during orientation, but offering safe methods of getting home to all students. They could also use RA’s as agents of their cause. If residential advisors mentored their halls about how to drink safely, instead of threatening them with consequences, students would feel less of a need to slam those five shots of Five ‘O in their dorm rooms as quickly as possible; because in my experience, a nervous drinker is a fast one.
To say there is no college without underage drinking is shallow and ignorant, but to not acknowledge that drinking is an important facet of campus life echoes much of the same. And if you can’t appreciate the “raucous” fraternity volleyball or the “bitter” aroma of beer, you don’t have to, but don’t ruin it for the other 21,000 students who can. The University shouldn’t vainly attempt to stop this overwhelming majority from drinking. Instead, it should aid students in making the right choices, even if those choices aren’t strictly legal.
Joe Sugiyama can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.