Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Cavalier Attitudes About Alcohol

The Rotunda at the University of VirginiaDymphna's post about political correctness, alcohol, and “rape” at the College of William and Mary brought in this comment:

I'm a first year student at the University of Virginia.

I never drink. A fact that puts me in a very, VERY small minority at UVa.

Thursday night (March 16th) a student visiting from Cornell University died in one of the first year dorms after going to a frat party and then passing out drunk when he got back to the dorm (he was there visiting a friend of his who lived in the dorm).

For the first several days after the incident I was checking local news websites both here, and around Cornell University, and found that NONE of them were reporting what I thought would have been at least a medium sized headline.

It wasn’t until yesterday (Monday, March 20th) that the majority of the student body found out when the story was posted in the school’s Cavalier Daily (See full article here).

The article, though not directly, tells a ridiculous story.

It starts by discussing the cause of death is under investigation because according to University Police Sgt. Fielding there were “no outward signs of anything criminal.” As if everyone’s first reaction should be that he was maliciously murdered in his sleep.

The article continues by interviewing a Sigma Phi Epsilon (the frat that the dead Cornell student had been at) pledge. Not an actual full member. But a pledge. According to Mr. Adner Van Der Vaart, the fraternity met to discuss the vents of Thursday night. After this committee meeting, the frat decided that though the dead man had drunk alcohol at the party, he had ONLY been drinking out of a flask that he had brought. Therefore the frat accepts no responsibility for the events that occurred.

Overall, it’s a story of no one taking responsibility, and trying to assign blame, while dancing around the one key fact:

A 19 year old is dead due to alcohol consumption.

Dymphna and I can testify, through long association with Charlottesville and UVa, that it does indeed have a reputation as a hard-drinking “party” college. Virginia Tech may give it a run for its money, but the University of Virginia is definitely where the children of the upper middle class want to go for an alcohol-friendly environment.

Local parents out here in the boonies know the University’s major attraction, and it makes them worry if they have a kid who gets good enough grades to be accepted there.

But I don’t know if UVa is that different from other American colleges today. Any more students want to weigh in with their two cents?


Wally Ballou said...

The emphasis on drinking at UVA is not new and predates the higher legal drinking ages. When my wife (Hullah Ballou) went there for Nursing school many, many years ago, she was in student governemt representing off-campus students (she was also a bit older than the other reps, having already got a degree elsewhere). When she went to her first Student Government meeting, she was shocked to find out that it was taken for granted that any time the student government met, there would be "a keg". She suggested they try it wihtout alcohol , and they looked at her like she had two heads.

Dymphna said...

4virginia -- agree totaly, though of course it is illegal for parents to "teach" young men how to drink responsibly except by lectures. No hands-on experience. We broke the law and allowed the Boy to have wine with meals when we did. Our emphasis was always food first, wine as an enhancement to a meal.

Public drunkeness is against the law in VA and Ch'ville has been known to inforce it. But not at UVa. The law appears to apply to townies only.

utze -- I totally disagree with your philosophy, especially when it comes to alcohol. Did you not read the part about where the boy died of alcohol toxicity?? With a little help from his fraternity brothers, he might still be alive. I wonder what his parents would say to your attitude when they visit his grave?

Others inflluence and inform our behavior, as social psychologists are making very clear in their studies of brain imaging. If having a dog in the room can lower one's blood pressure, what implications does that have for human interaction?

And have you never heard of peer pressure and/or influence? Or do you just not believe in it?

Second, we are not monads, we are interdependent social animals. We are actually hard-wired that way. I suggest you do a little reading in attachment theory. Your comment shows you could use the information.

As for "everyone should be allowed to do with one's life what one wants, if it doesn't harm anybody else" -- well, you'd have to be able to prove the second clause of your premise. All you did was state it without backup. So that's *your* given, but it sure isn't here.

You think this post is "silly." I think your response to it is superficial and ignorant.

De gustibus, dude.

Wally B I can quite imagine Hulla B. making that suggestion. The probably thought she was from the ancient past. Your story is disturbing,though. One has to assume all these people were over 21 and of drinking age?

Reminds me of one of my husbands: wouldn't go to a gathering where there was no booze.

UVA is the pits when it comes to alcohol abuse.

Dymphna said...


How about when they're 35???

airforcewife said...

I honestly think that, although we are unable to teach our children responsible drinking under the law, there is also a huge degree of causation from the "Dr. Spock" approach that has been built into an industry in child-rearing.

Children today are woefully suffering from a lack of anything with teaches them responsiblity or the fact that there are consequences for their actions - and it carries over into very dangerous behavior as soon as they leave the house.

One cadet in my daughter's CAP squadron was sent to live with grandparents after someone turned him in for dealing pot, and his mother ran and flushed the stash as the police knocked on the door.

Couldn't let the kid take up the consequences for his actions, now, could we?

We can't hold kids back if they don't make the grade in school because it might hurt their self esteem. On the other hand, we can't move them forward if they are ready ahead of everyone else because it might hurt everyone else's self esteem.

Chores? Possibly, maybe washing dishes or mowing the lawn, but nothing like what instilled the fortitude of previous generations.

It's no wonder there's a drinking problem on so many campuses - no one has ever told these kids they can be held accountable for their actions...

Wally Ballou said...

If we're still rooting around for root causes, let me ventialte a few of my pet prejudices - I think today's kids are a pack of conformist sheep - whose behavior has been neutered by a tyranny of attitudes and beliefs far more onerous than the old tyranny of actions we thought we were being liberated from. Their mental jailers are the Volvo-wearing, granola-crunching Bush-bashers with their "Question Authority" bumper stickers (but don't question theirs). The worst part is that these kids have internalized this mental slavery so they enforce it on themselves. Kids may actually believe (or think they must believe) that they are guilty because they are American, white, male, Christian, or any combination of the above. Sexual misbehaviour is risky if girls can retroactively drop the big one any time. Getting hammered is about the only rebellion they have left.

Wally Ballou said...

damn, did I really say "Volvo-wearing"? I wish this blogger UI had an "edit" button. You know what I mean - fill in your favorite stereotype.

Baron Bodissey said...

Hey, I think "Volvo-wearing" is appropriate. It's like Calvin Klein...

"Volvo... Not Just A Car -- It's A Lifestyle."

Dymphna said...

Since I am a firm believer in bibliocures, let me recommend an important book about undoing the damage of the current culture of kid-raising:

"Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers"

Chapter 3, "Stuck in Immaturity: How Peer Orientation Stunts Healthy Development" is especially important.

The two authors discuss children they've worked with: the cool, the untouchable, the 14 year old sexual predators (female), the serial oral sex expected of many young girls, the professional bullies who terrorize their's as bad as anything we read about Islam's strange arrangements between men and women and it's becoming widespread and deeply destructive.

I have not yet read it thoroughly enough to see if they advocate a stay-at-home person for the first crucial years of attachment. That is the crucial change in our family arrangements and it's deforming the kids. They get to college and they're like stunted, grotesque adults.

This keeps up and we'll be starting home-schooling colleges just to get away from the poisonous atmosphere -- same way we did with homeschooling of young children.

Dymphna said...

Minh Duc--

You are the rare had to undergo harrowing experiences few children in this country even know about. So I can see your point about self-reliance. But in this culture, a 19 y.o. has had no training in responsibility, he had lots of time and money at his disposal, and he's at high risk for detonating. He does need help from his friends, but they're as immature and stunted as he is.

Those 19 y.o.s in Iraq are part of something larger than themselves. They fight alongside one another, they lead, they are NEEDED. No kid in school has that experience or any chance of it, except maybe the ROTC kids, in preparation for their service.

When the Boy took Rotsie clasees even though he's physically ineligible for the military, the kids in his classes were baffled. "Why do it if you don't have to and aren't going to get anything out of it?" (ie, no scholarship money). He had a hard time explaining that military history and the knowledge of tatics and strategy is important for everyone to have and that he admires our military.

I have compassion for this boy because of his ignorance and because of the horrible way he died. I feel so sorry for his parents.

How many of these kids have to die before it changes? It will have to be a bottom-up change. Involve the govt and it will get worse.

Nilk said...

Coming from the other side of the pond, I feel like I'm missing something when you discuss parents educating children about alcohol.

Does this mean that you are not allowed to drink in front of them? Or have anything alcoholic nearby at all?

I let my 3 year old have a sip of my wine every once in a blue fit. I gave up drinking to excess when I was pregnant, and never went back to it.

While there were times I was irresponsible with the grog, they were few and far between.

But then again, my parents were responsible drinkers, and alcohol was not taboo, nor was it made a fuss of. Oh, and I had to suffer the consequences. If I had a hangover I got laughed at.

Regarding utze's comment and lack of sympathy, I had an experience years ago up in Brisbane. I went into the ladies' room, and there was a young girl there who was well and truly trashed.

And I mean on her way to alcoholic poisoning. It was her first night out for friday night drinks with the guys from work, and they helped her on her way.

She couldn't stand, she was throwing up (on me) and couldn't get herself into a cubicle to do what was needed. I helped there, too.

Other women in the room thought it was really nice of me to look after my friend and were gobsmacked when they found out I didn't know her from a bar of soap.

It was an ugly, ugly scene.

Her boss finally came looking for her, and I tore him a new one. So did a couple of the other women there.

He got the smile wiped off his face, especially when I pointed out alcoholic poisoning and its consequences. He had to carry her out.

I never got her name; it was not necessary. I have had friends look after me in tight situations, and also help from strangers. What goes around comes around.

There was no excuse for the frat boys to leave a young man there to die.

Yes, he should have been responsible with his drinking, but by the same token, his mates should have looked out for him.

This is a disgrace.

Thomas von der Trave said...

I would be interested to hear any reactions to my comment on the original thread ("The Elephant...)! My sense is that the toleration of the primitive organizations known as fraternities and sororities is a large part of the problem. I also take issue with the idea that this is anything new.

Please feel free to ignore my admittedly controversial take on the hokum that is AA!

Dymphna said...

Old Cato--when you said
My sense is that the toleration of the primitive organizations known as fraternities and sororities is a large part of the problem. I also take issue with the idea that this is anything new.
... you forgot that this is the very reason we can't get rid of the elephant. The alumni would raise holy hell if we just kicked out the frats and sororoties.

I wonder how many complaints are generated by them and against them??

Too much moolah for any college prez who wants to keep his job. Let the kids mess up, as long as his job stays in place.

Buncha "academics."

Thomas von der Trave said...

Yes, Dymphna, but...see my comment on the earlier thread.

At the risk of blowing my cover, the college in question was Amherst, and the alumni did indeed raise holy hell when the administration proposed getting rid of the frats. Threats, talk of financial disaster, the works.

Thing is, the college had the stones to do it anyway, and guess what? The endowment has never been fatter, the school consistently ranks first or in the top five in surveys every year, the social life is much more balanced, and I'd wager it's hard for a young, inexperience freshman, boy or girl, to bounce around campus staying drunk all week at free keggers.

So, it can be done. One college did it. And that was sometime in the eighties.

Bears looking at as a model, no?

Anonymous said...

Dymphna, you said, "Minh Duc--

You are the rare had to undergo harrowing experiences few children in this country even know about. So I can see your point about self-reliance. But in this culture, a 19 y.o. has had no training in responsibility, he had lots of time and money at his disposal, and he's at high risk for detonating. He does need help from his friends, but they're as immature and stunted as he is." I'm twenty now. I was nineteen most of half of my freshman and half of my sophmore year here at Purdue. I am all about personal responsibility. If you're going to drink underage, you had better know what you're doing as far as I'm concerned. If you do drink too much, you had best make sure your friends are always on stand by to back you up. In short, I have little sympathy for this guy. I read the excerpt you posted and it sounds like he a) didn't know when to call it quits (didn't know his limits) and b) didn't have a decent support group to back him up or cut him off.