Society seems to be cool about safe sex practices (though Take Back the Night may say that people don’t know how to drink on campus and that’s why there’s so much rape going on; but you should ask them) and about gun control (seriously, whoever thinks the kid on caffeine with a gun is safer than the same kid with no gun and a joint needs a mental health check), but it is difficult to find a safe and good middle ground when it comes to drugs if, um, well, they’re illegal.
One of the things we get to learn in college is figuring out what our relationships with drugs are. There’s no way around it, honestly. You need to learn where your limits are. If, after a wild night, you can’t talk coherently to your roommate, it’s better than trying your luck with your boss in three years, you know? If your getting high makes you unable to move for six hours at a time, or makes your judgment impaired, you may want to find that out with friends as opposed to strangers. If you can’t sleep on coke for two days, you may want to know that before you take it right before a final. It IS about knowing yourself. Just as with everything else.
When I was in Madrid, university grounds were not part of the country’s jurisdiction. In other words, our own laws stood. Which was fun. I recall friends getting high on hash before coming into class ... if they ever made it there (I did go to class, thank you very much). I do remember at least one professor who arrived drunk. I remember I came to Cornell because I thought I wanted a more ... professional college experience. But... this? I can’t even smoke a cigarrette outside the library without at least one person rolling their eyes at me (SERIOUSLY. STOP DOING THAT. IT’S INCREDIBLY DISRESPECTFUL, DIDN’T YOUR MOTHER TEACH YOU TO BE NICE?).
Cornell is, honestly, a haven for drug use. Because, come on, if I can get pot by walking into Collegetown houses and asking around, if I know that there’s coke or heroin available in frat house X and Y, don’t you think the cops know it too? You really think people are that careful to not let them know? Consumption is a necessary part of it. Safe consumption. The question is whether we Cornell students are de-stressed enough to not be stupid with the way we do drugs. For how smart we are in everything else, one would expect we’d handle it well ... and a lot of people do, but many don’t. I remember the drummer for my rock band sophomore year was living in a frat house that, among many other things, is known for its drug use ... and in the six years he was in Ithaca, four kids he was close to had overdosed and died. It’s vox populi that there are more drug-related deaths than many of us care to admit. Which, if you ask me, is a pretty big deal. Because we’re treating Cornell for the wrong illness. We’re not (only) depressed. We’re addicted.
I’ll pick on alcohol because I don’t have space to cover the others (there are so many stories, believe me). First off, the 21-year-old legal drinking age is a joke. I remember a friend telling me that a small town in Florida refused to up it from 18 to 21 and federal funding for education was taken away for six months, so people were forced to enforce the 21 drinking age. Kinda scary. Especially since the small town in Florida was right: the age is downright stupid. Because, as you all know, people drink anyway.
(Even more interesting: if everything BUT alcohol is easier to get before 21, use of other frequently abused drugs, most of them illegal, with the current drinking age is not only possible, but almost encouraged). So chances are that, during your college life, if you don’t try them, you know someone who will. And don’t look at me like that. You know perfectly well how true that is.
But really, all the uber-conservatist ways of trying to eradicate alcohol abuse amongst college-aged students have achieved is to blur, if not eliminate, the perceived difference of the consumers between getting drunk and getting wasted. There is a difference. A big one. But the timing of the social events themselves is hardly helping. If we all know most of the parties get started and worthwhile at midnight, and drink to get drunk for half an hour before that, dance for an hour and a half afterwards ... we are cramming all the fun you can get in two hours because we have to get up and work on something the next day. Which we totally don’t, because the hangover sucks.
But it’s more than that. The party cramming goes beyond the two hours that we have on weekends, because we end up feeling that fun is to be had given certain requirements. And Cornell students (I’m overgeneralizing, because, thank God, I’ve found exceptions to this) seem to need a bullet list to complete in order to have fun, which makes me wonder whether we’re having any fun at all. Having fun is more than getting drunk and getting laid (especially so if you’re doing them together: I have heard very, very few successful hookup stories with people that were drunk. Ew.), and it would preferably involve a little more creativity than just getting drunk and getting laid. Not that these two activities are not fun, please don’t get me wrong ... but ... having fun takes time. You can’t do it over a lunch break. Friends and fun take time and it takes more time than Cornell students like to admit. And maybe we also need time to figure out why we’re as stressed out as hell.
Or we can just wait out these two weeks, party till we pseudo die on Slope Day, and move on with life. That works too.
Florencia Ulloa is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at email@example.com. Innocent Bystander appears alternate Fridays this semester.