March 13, 2013

DEIXLER: Binging on Forbidden Fruit

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I am spending spring break on a beach in Mexico with a dozen friends. The animal house college spring break isn’t necessarily my scene, but I couldn’t ignore the small part of me that wanted to take part — at least for a few days. Last night I checked my phone after a few focused hours at Mann (they’re hard to come by these days), and found three missed calls from my mom. Oh no. I immediately called her back, prepared for the worst.

“Mom? What’s wrong?”

“Hannah, I am worried about Mexico. I just heard a story about a boy who never drank very much at school but got so drunk on spring break he tried to jump into the pool from his third floor room but didn’t realize there was a window in front of him.”

Oh God. I knew she had been too uncharacteristically worry free up until this point.

“Luckily, my room is only on the second floor.”

“Hannah. Please. You’ve never been in that kind of environment! I’m concerned you’ll feel so much pressure. Who knows how much you’ll drink, if given the opportunity!”

Frustrated, I hung up. I love my mother, and I appreciate that she rarely gets this neurotic (at least with me), but I couldn’t, at the moment, deal with it — or her. Because what my mom doesn’t know (or, more realistically, knows quite well but doesn’t want to admit) is that I have been in “that kind of environment,” and I have been given the opportunity to get drunk enough to want to jump off of a balcony.

I think I can speak on behalf of most Cornellians when I say that I have been exposed to alcohol — and lots of it — for a long time, and I have, over the years, had to learn how to moderate how I drink it. Alcohol is, for many of us, no longer novel. According to Gannett, 77 percent of Cornell students drink moderately, or not at all. To me, the idea of being shitfaced wasted doesn’t seem as crazy or exciting anymore (and the hangovers are almost never worth whatever fun I had the night before). It’s a mainstay of our social lives, certainly, but it’s not quite as thrilling as it used to be. There’s no more sneaking, lying and hiding. It’s there, and we can drink — a lot — if we want to … that is, until the University enstates a mandatory dry pledging period.

This year, as part of a much-needed overhaul of the Greek system, the first six weeks of pledging were entirely absent of alcohol. In other words, pledges were not allowed to be drinking, nor in the presence of alcohol for the first six weeks of membership. Mixers were dry and new members were forbidden from drinking independently in Collegetown. In short, these freshmen (or sophomores or juniors) spent six weeks without taking a sip of alcohol. More than that, they were told by everyone around them that if they drank alcohol (or were caught drinking alcohol, as I don’t want to sound like my naïve mother), they would be punished. This dry period ended last week.

Not surprisingly, I received an e-mail from the president of the Panhellenic Council on Friday reporting that more students had been transported to the hospital on Thursday night (i.e. the first night post-prohibition) than during the first six weeks of the semester combined. As my mother had feared, at the first opportunity new members had to drink, they were jumping through windows.

Perhaps the administration and my mom should sit down and have a meeting about what they want to believe, and what they know to be true.

As college students, we are at a stage in our lives in which we are making mistakes and asking questions — but critically learning from our missteps. I am not saying the Greek system doesn’t have its flaws, nor am I suggesting that Cornell students don’t drink too much. We do. However, after hearing stories after sirens this weekend, it is clear that prohibition isn’t the answer. It seems that moderation — or at least desensitization — is the only solution to our university’s drinking problem. Gannett is posting flyers in every bathroom stall about “sticking to the buzz,” but the administration is banning alcohol consumption for all new members of the Greek system (which, by the way, represents a larger percentage of the student population than ever before). I commend programs like Cayuga’s Watchers that are working to make alcohol consumption safe. Alcohol — and moderate consumption of it — needs to be normalized, not forbidden. What my mom (and those serving in her role at this school) doesn’t yet understand is that being exposed to “that kind of environment” and quickly being anesthetized to it is, undoubtedly, the safer choice.

Hannah Deixler is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at hdeixler@cornellsun.com. Shades of Grey appears alternate Thursdays this semester.

Original Author: Hannah Deixler

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