In the December 5, 2014 issue of The Chronicles of Higher Education there a series of articles on “Alcohol’s Grip on Campus.” A stunning 44% of all college students are binge drinkers, meaning they typically will consume four or five drinks in a row. More than 1800 students die each year of alcohol related causes; 600,000 are injured, and 100,000 become victims of alcohol related sexual assault. In fact, about 75% of all sexual assault that takes place on a typical college campus is alcohol- related.
Colleges continue their educational programs and the by-line of trusting students to drink responsibly and monitor their own behavior—to no avail. The only thing that has been shown to be effective is restricting easy access to alcohol are stiff penalties when the rules are broken; the exact things colleges don’t want to do because they are afraid of violating student’s rights.
However, “students themselves say more-aggressive enforcement could change their behavior. One survey of those who had violated their colleges’ alcohol policies found that parental notification, going through the criminal justice system, or being required to enter an alcohol treatment program would be more of a deterrent than fines and warnings.”
Some administrators who oversee sexual assault/abuse prevention programs “feel that they can’t say much about alcohol, even though it is a common element in many incidents. If they counsel students to limit consumption, they fear, young women who drink will be blamed, and will blame themselves, perhaps by not reporting attacks.”
Thus in view of this unwillingness of universities to protect students by monitoring and limiting their drinking, students are trying to “protect” themselves from sexual assault by monitoring their friends and intervention. For example, students at Union College in Schenectady NY (my home town) have actually created a campus pledge for people to sign saying they will intervene if they see someone in a risky (drunk/sexual) situation.
I find all of this both sad and ironic. Sad, because another generation is wasting, shaming, and guilting itself all in the name of freedom and because administrators do not want be viewed as overly protective. Ironic, because students will invent systems that are more stringent and overprotective than administrators would ever think of creating.
This “Lord of the Flies” scenario illustrates not only the broken condition of humanity, but also the biblical principle that where there is a lack of vision, the people go unrestrained. I believe it is the responsibility of the university to provide the boundaries of restraint that will ensure the safest and most conducive environment for learning. Such boundaries should consist in more than mere edicts; they should engage students in a community of responsibility toward others which would influence the society outside the school.
What if the university, instead of reflecting the values of the wider culture, had the vision of developing a community with values that could actually change the landscape of culture? What if the importance of self-control, generosity, sexual dignity and respect, and racial reconciliation were values that actually shaped a student during his/her tenure in college? Don’t you think this would have as much or more impact on our culture than preparing another shark for the tank? Think of how these values would affect the average workplace, the housing/mortgage industry, and the criminal justice system!
So if you are looking for a college, look beyond its Club-med atmosphere to see what values it practices in community; not its rules, but the practices that are lived out in community. You will not only get your best bargain there, you will be doing the rest of us a great favor.