Opinions, Column

Resolving the Drinking Stigma

It is an unfortunate but unalterable fact that students enter Boston College at an age when it is illegal for them to drink alcohol and graduate when it is legal to do so. Even the most responsible freshman drinker will be engaging in an activity prohibited both by political and University authorities. There is not much that can be done to alter the fact that all the benefits of alcohol consumption are closed to freshmen.

Yet, I detect some unfortunate attitudes toward drinking among the student body and the administration at BC which bear some relation to the drinking laws which bar about half the student body from drinking.

A 21-year-old friend recently asked me, in all seriousness, whether there was a restriction on drinking among Jesuits, as if teetotalism ranked among obedience or chastity as a moral imperative. The answer is of course no.

A Heights humor piece last month asserted there was some sort of odd contrast in the transformation of the School of Theology and Ministry into a tailgating spot. The piece went so far as to characterize tailgating as an exercise in “sins of the youth.” It goes without saying that excessive drinking, with the vomiting, blacking out, and irresponsibility that comes with it, is not to be tolerated by moral people. But to equate drinking in general with such extreme cases is to be very confused about what drinking is good for.

I am 21 now, and want to speak a little from my own experience about how drinking can improve life by making one feel at ease. A glass of beer or wine is a means of signaling both to oneself and to one’s drinking companions that the moment we now share is one in which we can be at peace. It is one in which our anxieties about the future and the minor, yet real, obstacles that confront us daily can be presently put aside. There are times for staying up late in the library or earning money, but those times are not right now.

Being two or three (or four) drinks in allows for a focus on the present, and simplicity of thought that makes possible a form of togetherness not always open to us. My conversations tend to flow with a spontaneity and naturalness that I think most drinkers will recognize. The shared act of consumption, too, gives one the sense of being included in a group, participating in a shared lowering of inhibitions which seems always to bond people. If such was the publicly sanctioned reason for drinking on campus, there would probably be far less of a stigma associated with drinking itself.

One of the reasons for this stigma at BC is the complete lack of suitable venues for engaging in the sort of drinking that seems to me most valuable. Drinking in a room or a Mod has always felt juvenile to me, too associated with the binge drinking which is rightly objected to when the issue of alcohol on campus is brought up. Although I have never been before, the “Pub Series” events which are sometimes held at Hillside sound promising. Here is a public place, sanctioned by the University, in which moderate drinking is a given.

The only issue I have with it so far, or at least with the one held last Thursday, is that, like tailgating, its focus was drinking in the context of a sports event. It seems to me that sports events, or “game days,” are the exact settings in which the effects of alcohol can lead to bad decision-making, given the passionate feelings that the events arouse in people.

My wish is that there were some suitable on-campus locations where moderate drinking could take place with University approval. In the current system, all alcohol has to be purchased off campus (except during football games) and there are strict regulations as to where it can be consumed to avoid the punitive patrol of RAs.

In my opinion, Hillside seems like a good location for such drinking: it is a large space, has a bar already in place, and a laid-back vibe. This suggestion comes from my wish that drinking could be integrated a little more successfully into campus life, perhaps contributing to a removal of what I think is a pernicious stigma against such a beneficial pastime.

Featured Image by Zoe Fanning / Heights Editor

October 13, 2017

ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “Resolving the Drinking Stigma”

  1. So the only way you can feel “at peace” is with alcohol? Yikes. Maybe that’s the real problem on campus: too many shallow people that hate their lives to the point they drink to “signal to themselves and their peers that they’re relaxed”. Sound sad, a little pathetic? You’re gonna love the real world outside of the college safe space bubble.