On February 2, Timothy Piazza — a sophomore at Pennsylvania State University — went to "pledge night" for the fraternity Beta Theta Pi. Throughout the night, fraternity brothers encouraged him to drink beer and vodka far past the safe limit for alcohol consumption. After he fell down a flight of stairs and hit his head on a metal handrail, the brothers laid Piazza on a couch. The fraternity did not call the ambulance until the next morning. Piazza died on February 4.
Although Princeton isn't as bad as Penn State, drinking is still a problem. The loose enforcement of alcohol laws isn't making it any better.
Students go to pregames in the dorms where they drink hard alcohol to get drunk quickly. Other than the occasional PSafe patrol or RCA that breaks up a party for noise complaints, few ever get punished for serving alcohol to underage students.
Then, around 11 p.m., they go to the Street. Students under the drinking age can consume alcohol as much as they want because of New Jersey's loophole. I've been to the parties sober. I've seen the beer pong tables in the eating clubs. I've seen how nobody cares whether you're 21 when serving alcohol, regardless of whatever wristband system the eating clubs claim to have.
Students and the eating clubs will argue that Princeton is a safe place to drink because no one is forced to drink, that there are officers on duty to prevent overconsumption, and that partygoers are encouraged to take intoxicated classmates to McCosh Health Center.
But they overlook the risks of the drinking behavior that actually occur. Any good safety analyst will say that the risk of an activity should be judged by the number of near misses than actual injuries. Every time a student is sent to Princeton Medical Center for intoxication — which is quite frequently — that's a near miss. Only luck has prevented a student death at Princeton.
Critics will likely argue that my proposal to enforce underage drinking laws will result in increased binge drinking as students try to get drunk before P-Safe can catch them. If that logic was true, then there would currently be none at Princeton because of the school's lax enforcement. Yet we all know that binge drinking is alive and well.
Similarly, international students will point to Europe — where the drinking ages are lower — and say that children rarely drink heavily because they are taught to respect alcohol from a young age. But such claims are unsubstantiated by the World Health Organization's 2014 report which shows that heavy episodic drinking is more prevalent in European 15-19 year olds than Americans.
Contrary to what readers may think, I'm not a neo-prohibitionist. I would have no problem with alcohol if it were students sipping bourbon while playing croquet in seersucker suits on the front lawn of an elegant eating club. But this isn't the norm for most colleges, not even Princeton.
For those who don't drink, it means that they have to tolerate drinkers' nonsense.
Aamir Zainulabadeen '18 lives in Dod Hall. He said in an e-mail that a bunch of students held a large party in the building's kitchen on April 15. When he went downstairs the next morning, he explained how there was a pole dancing stand, and the kitchen was covered in beer. Aamir said that, "something inside me snapped" after, "a year of having to live in general dirtiness on the weekends." He said that while students use alcohol, he does not believe that it excuses their behavior for being, "so inconsiderate to the staff and to other students."
Aamir is only one of the many students who have to endure drinkers' messes. I have heard countless stories from friends about drunk roommates who return to their dorms and vomit or urinate in their bedrooms. There is a disgruntled minority at Princeton that is sick of its social scene.
Alcohol is a problem for students. Unless we are willing to have a frank discussion about its role in college life, students will continue to suffer from its consequences both within and beyond the Orange Bubble.
This is the third article in a series about alcohol and the college experience.
Liam O’Connor is a first year from Wyoming, Del. He can be reached at email@example.com.