What have we been drinking?

Audrey Hull

This year, Alcohol Awareness Week hosted an unusual and exciting tour of the “Secret, Hidden and Cool” places on campus. Sponsored by BACCHUS and led by none other than Dean Truesdell, the tour explored such Lawrence highlights as the cupola of Main Hall (colloquially known as “the Nipple of Knowledge”), the secret passageway leading from the Memorial Union to the Wriston Art Center, and the elevator residing in Truesdell’s house.
According to Paul Valencic, the assistant director of counseling services as well as the alcohol education coordinator, this event was planned to give students an alternative to drinking on a Friday night. The results of last year’s CORE survey showed that a significant number of students drink because they feel there is nothing else to do.
Working with Valencic, BACCHUS -which stands for “Boosting Alcohol Consciousness Concerning the Health of University Students” -is currently planning additional events to give students alternatives to drinking, as well as spread information on the dangers of irresponsible drinking.
One of the more interesting events is their “social-norming” campaign, with which BACCHUS hopes to change students’ perception of the amount of drinking on the LU campus. The same CORE survey showed that 88 percent of the students surveyed believe that their peers drink at least once a week. The reality is that 80 percent drink once a week or less, while a third of the students on campus do not drink at all.
According to Valencic, the object of this campaign is to prove to students that they do not need to drink to have an active, rewarding social life.
The question is if BACCHUS’ intended message is getting through to students. Sophomore Elena Flores noted that while BACCHUS is a good on-campus concept, its ostensible message-“drink responsibly”-would be more accurate if changed to “do not drink at all.”
In response, Colman RHD and BACCHUS co-advisor Emma Sweet opined that students who believe this “just aren’t paying attention” to BACCHUS.
Another of the issues related to student drinking, according to the results of the CORE survey, is that many students do not see drinking as a problem, nor do they feel coerced to drink. Many students feel that drinking is a personal rather than a social choice. These students claim that they do not drink to get drunk, but to invite a relaxed party atmosphere.
The dangers of irresponsible drinking include alcohol poisoning, sexual harassment, and blackouts. Valencic notes that students do not apply these dangers to themselves because “at that age, they see themselves as invincible.” Unfortunately, five students nationally have died from alcohol related problems this year, proving that one’s youth is not adequate protection.
On a more humorous note, Valencic also mentioned that drinking could inhibit one’s studying, which “on this campus could be a major problem.”
Further information regarding alcohol use and abuse can be found at the counseling services webpage on the Lawrence site.