Let’s Brainstorm to Improve Campus Drinking Culture

Wilson Pava-

Where do we go from here?

Much has been said recently about the drinking culture at Davidson and the ways that we can improve it. The forces at hand have caused serious changes to happen this year, most of them prompted by two issues. The first is the fact that there were five transports at the onset of the semester, an increase from zero last year. The second is the decreased barriers between down the hill and the town, leading to noise complaints.

If there is one thing that the college encourages all of us to do it is to think outside the box. It is precisely this type of thinking that we have to utilize in order to solve the issues we face. The solution to the latter issue, that of the noise complaints, is not really a complicated one. The college must receive the available exemption from the noise ordinance–this is a no brainer. To ensure good relations with the town, we have to consider a better solution. Sound is an issue faced by neighborhoods along interstates across the country; many have found a solution in the form of a sound barrier. It is time that the college seriously considers this as a long-term solution that is beneficial for the town and the students.

There remains, however, a more serious issue that needs to be addressed. There is one foundational cause for Davidson’s unhealthy drinking culture. Stress. There is no question in anybody’s mind that Davidson is a high-stress environment. As a result, many revert to the idea of “work hard, play hard” which encourages cutting loose and going hard on the weekends. At the end of the day, this lifestyle relies on drinking and cutting loose. Consequently, the first step in improving our drinking culture is learning how to deal with stress better during the week. We need more education on how to effectively deal with stress. This should be continuous and mandatory for all students, regardless of class year. This also means more mental health support. The college has taken steps in the right direction, most notably the addition of a substance abuse counselor. However, more still needs to be done, especially in terms of preventing students from turning to alcohol in the first place.

There are no easy solutions for such a complicated problem, and it doesn’t end with more mental health support. Aside from bettering our mental health support and learning how to better deal with stress we must also learn to prioritize other activities over drinking. Cultures across the world serve as great examples of this. Some prioritize food and tabletop conversation over the alcohol served at the table. Others prioritize the music and atmosphere over the drinks at the high-tops bordering the dance floor. Others still prioritize the companionship of coworkers and the complaints shared over a couple drinks.

For our drinking culture to improve and become healthier we need to reconsider what we prioritize in our social experiences. When we value our friends, the music, and even food over drinking and getting drunk to cut loose, our drinking culture will be that much healthier. How we accomplish this isn’t necessarily clear yet. At the crossroads, we find ourselves we’re left with no choice but to try everything to see what works.

We should be innovative in our solutions and open-minded in our considerations. Why not consider having trained bartenders in every frat? Back when there was hard liquor at F plenty of drinks were over-poured, and the same holds true for the increasing number of pregames and private parties. Instead of having drinks that are way too strong in private apartments or pods, wouldn’t it be better to have well poured drinks in a controlled environment?

Let’s be game-changers, let’s push the boundaries, let’s consider a bar at Commons. As many are happy to remind us, juniors and seniors are role models. Why not show first-years that drinking can take a back seat to things like food? If we see others prioritizing things over getting drunk, we normalize the idea that drinking can be secondary.

We should consider a lot of possible solutions, but the only one we shouldn’t consider is going dry and killing the social scene on campus. The sad reality is that this year so far has really pushed us in that direction. If Davidson continues down this road the short-term effect will be more transports as those of us here already gravitate towards pregames and private parties; in the long-term students will be less willing to come here, why go to a high-stress environment that you can never really escape? 

Wilson Pava ’19 is a Political Science major from Sarasota, Florida.  Contact him at wipava@davidson.edu.