Rethinking drinking

Orientation week has drawn to a close. While the purpose of orientation is to welcome students to the community with informative seminars and engaging activities, for many, orientation conjures up an image of one big, red solo cup.

Many anticipate getting drunk, especially if they would like to make friends. “I thought I was going to get drunk every night…and I did get drunk every night,” said a first-year Mount Allison student when asked about this year’s orientation.

In a group interview of ten first-year students, some of whom chose not to be named because they are under the legal drinking age, all agreed that media romanticize the nightlife and drinking culture at university.

“University drinking culture has become so much more intense with movies. Every movie that has a college university party is wild,” said Louis Sobol, a first-year Mt. A student.

Student Life has declared that all orientation events must be dry. Despite this precaution, students still attended them under the influence of alcohol. Orientation events that occurred at night and drew large crowds were also times when alcohol was more likely to be consumed.

Media romanticizes university nightlife.Izzy Francolini/illustrator
Media romanticizes university nightlife.Izzy Francolini/illustrator

“I think it relates to the party culture,” said first-year student Connor Orsava. He added that when there is alcohol involved, “people are more excited about parties, [the events are] more intriguing.”

For the students who do not drink and have no intention of starting to, the implementation of dry events somewhat alleviated the pressure to drink.

“People here are very nice,” said a first-year student who chose not to drink. “By being sober I got to meet other students who didn’t drink either. We became closer because we already had something to relate to.”

Excessive alcohol consumption during orientation is an issue for many universities. Two alcohol-related deaths occurred at Queen’s university in 2010, one at Acadia in 2012, and one at Dalhousie last fall.

In response, Mt. A introduced a new points system this year to replace the original procedure of fining students in residence. The points system is also in place at Brock and Guelph.

The points system enables residence staff to give students points for disobeying the residence’s Code of Conduct. The number of points given at a time varies depending on the severity of the action. An individual can receive a maximum of six points before being evicted from residence for a full week.

Student Life also provides education to students on alcohol abuse, with the aim of promoting safe alcohol consumption during orientation.

However, when the same group of first-year students were asked if they received any seminars on safe drinking, there was a resounding “no.” Safe consumption was only briefly addressed in Venus Envy’s sex talk and at a mental health workshop. Attendance at these events was optional.

“The only time we discussed [safe consumption] was at a residence meeting,” a student said, which means that off-campus first-year students were not privy to the information.

One of the ways Student Lift plans to continue to promote safe drinking is through the Keep It Social campaign. The campaign aims to educate students on the difference between unsafe and social drinking habits. Orientation Chair Meghan McCracken said that Student Life plans to introduce the Keep It Social mandate, but it is only in its earliest stages.

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