This is the fourth column in a series about alcohol and the college experience.
Young adults exploit their newfound freedom when they leave their parents and go to college. They experiment with new activities that are normally discouraged by their elders. Drug use, binge drinking, and a hook-up culture are the norm for many campuses, including Princeton's.
At Princeton, students choose the campus's drinking culture for a combination of reasons. But many are sucked into it because they do not know that there are other activities available on a Friday night.
The University has made significant progress in providing competing events that draw students away from drinking. I applaud the administration's recent effort to pull students away from drinking during houseparties by bringing comedian Hasan Minhaj to campus. But their initiatives could be improved by providing fellowship events in the residential colleges every Friday or Saturday night to serve as regular alternatives to alcoholic parties.
Although they are not always well-publicized, there are a few weekly events that provide an alternative social setting to the Street. Much of these occur under the umbrella of the Alcohol Initiative. According to the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Student's website, the Initiative’s purpose is to "set aside funds that are intended to support new initiatives that positively contribute to the quality of undergraduate social life at the University."
David Mazumder '17 is a former chair of the Alcohol Initiative fund. In an interview, he said, "There's an idea that in order to have a good time, the appropriate response is to use methods to get drunk fast after work or on Dean's Date." He explained how the Fund's board members meet every Tuesday to give money to organizations that provide events during 10 p.m.-2 a.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Mazumder said that one of the Alcohol Initiative's greatest successes is funding events that draw in large numbers of people.
The Alternative, a student group that aims "to create and promote an alternative social scene that respects the whole person," often receives funding from the Alcohol Initiative. Paul Draper '18, the club's president, said in an e-mail that, "Certain dangers will always be present when you have heavy drinking and a hook-up culture."
Draper went on to say that The Alternative has exciting non-alcoholic parties that are hosted on the Street. According to Draper, one of the biggest challenges that the University faces in providing alternative activities to drinking is that "those activities usually aren't regularly scheduled and so they never become a permanent alternative to regular parties."
While there are activities at the Garden Theater, Frist Campus Center, and Murray-Dodge Hall, students don't like to leave their dorms — for reasons other than alcohol — during the cold winter or on rainy nights.
Princeton could improve non-alcoholic events by bringing them to the students. The residential colleges have not fulfilled students' expectations for social activities. I propose that they offer weekly game nights on Fridays or Saturdays from 8 p.m.-11 p.m. where students can eat food, relax around a television, play cards, compete in trivia, and participate in other games.
Some residential colleges, like Whitman, offer different versions of this in the form of upperclassmen social hours and football watch parties. But the former excludes underclassmen and the latter only occurs in the fall. Like Draper said, there are few regular alternatives to the Street, and students have to take a long walk for the few that are available.
I also concur with the Editorial Board in that the University should revive its campus pub. As a pragmatist, I realize that students are going to drink at college. It is preferable that those who are of the legal drinking age consume their alcohol under the watchful eye of a hired bartender, rather than inexperienced students at a pre-game or eating club. This should draw some students away from riskier drinking environments in the dorms and on the Street, too.
At the end of the week, we are all just trying to find a way to relax. Many students drink because there are few other options. But we must work together to create healthier alternatives for everyone.
Liam O’Connor is a first year from Wyoming, Del. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.