Closer Look

The Loyola Drinking Culture: A Look At Why Students Drink

Kyle Sullivan// Flickr

College drinking isn’t a new trend. Underage drinking has plagued college campuses for as long as universities have been in the United States, and the amount of drinking is no different at Loyola.

Loyola may have made the list of top universities in the United States last year, but it didn’t make it onto the list of top party schools. It seldom does. But that doesn’t mean Loyola doesn’t have many of the same drinking trends as other universities.

Social college drinking in the United States began at the Ivy Leagues, according to a 1911 issue of Boston American. Other colleges, such as Loyola, have adopted it.

In 1911, 60 percent of students at Yale, Harvard, Cornell, Princeton and Columbia University drank, Boston American. In 1915, a reporter for Harvard University’s daily student newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, said that number had risen to 75 percent.

Today, the top party school is the University of Illinois at Urbana-Campaign, according to The Princeton Review. The University of Iowa came in second, followed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Although Loyola is not on this list, the LUC Spring 2013 “National College Health Assessment” reported that 81 percent of undergraduates in the United States admitted to drinking. Many of those students admitted to experiencing negative consequences in college due to drinking, including the 32 percent of students that blacked out, 24 percent of students that missed class and 13 percent of students that were hurt or injured while drinking.

A sophomore, who we’ll call Sarah because she wished to remain anonymous, said she drinks heavily.

“I choose to drink because it’s fun,” said the 20-year-old ad/PR major from Chicago. “It allows me to forget about any current stresses and makes me feel more confident and outgoing. Sometimes it’s good to feel out of control.”

Sarah said she and her friends drink together before going out on weekends to “get pumped up” or stay in and drink after a long week. Sarah said she believes there is more reward than risk in drinking.

“I have been caught underage drinking,” she said. “The thrill of potentially getting caught and getting away with [using] a fake ID only adds to the excitement.”

Sarah said she has blacked out and gotten sick from alcohol consumption. She said she has had many regrets, but the decisions we make make shape who we are for better or for worse.

Despite the negative effects of alcohol consumption, such as addiction, cases of assault and even death, drinking remains popular at Loyola and other colleges across the United States. Drinking is a social norm among college students.

First-year student Anna McCue from Warren, Ohio, sometimes drinks on the weekends with her friends.

“[Drinking] is part of the prescribed college experience. If you’re not out, you’re missing something,” said the 19-year-old international studies major.

Being underage, McCue said she usually gets her alcohol from older friends. Other students rely on fake IDs to get their alcohol. A sophomore, who we’ll call Rachel because she also asked to remain anonymous, said an older friend gave her a copy of her ID to get alcohol.

Rachel said she started drinking in high school and continues to drink in college. She said she thinks a big factor in underage drinking in college is being away from home.

“You can get in trouble with the law, but that’s much less likely than getting in trouble with your parents,” said the 19-year-old marketing major from Park Ridge, Illinois.

For students such as Rachel, this newfound freedom for college students can lead to irresponsible drinking.

“I’ve had times where I probably should have gone to the hospital and didn’t,” said Lewis. “I actually took my friend to the hospital this weekend because she was getting really sick. We used the Good Samaritan Policy.”

Loyola’s Good Samaritan Policy allows students who have been drinking to help others without fear of repercussion. It is in place for crisis situations which may involve vomiting and alcohol poisoning. It’s meant to encourage students to act appropriately without fear of disciplinary action. This is not a “get out of jail free” card, but it is an encouragement to take action when necessary without severe repercussions. Students, such as Sarah, believe the policy doesn’t necessarily encourage responsible drinking.

Sarah said she doesn’t like the policy because your friend wakes up in the hospital in trouble with an expensive bill, and you’re free to go. Other students said they engage less in alcohol consumption but still enjoy a night out.

“Many of us [students] don’t have time to go out on weekends due to school work, jobs, volunteering or various other reasons,” said one 20-year-old sophomore from Louisville, Kentucky. “It depends on what I have going on that week. I typically don’t drink very often when I go out, but that’s a personal decision.”

Another underage student said he likes to go to his friends’ apartments or bars in Wrigleyville and Lincoln Park as alternatives to fraternity houses, since Loyola does not have Greek life housing.

“Drinking can be fun when done in moderation,” said the biology major. “Drinking can lower inhibitions and allow for more enjoyable times if done correctly and not in excess.”

While some Loyola students enjoy the drinking culture of college, others choose not to participate. Business major Jacob Skwarcan from South Bend, Indiana, is one of those students.

“I don’t want to spend the money,” said the 19-year-old sophomore in an email interview. “I don’t really enjoy it or feel the need to [drink].”

The average college student spends $500 on alcohol per year, according to Daily Finance. That’s enough to buy 66 Chipotle burritos. In addition to being costly, Skwarcan says he doesn’t drink because he doesn’t like alcohol’s effects.

“It makes me not want to be around [my friends] when they’re indulging [in alcohol] due to social pressures,” he said. “I don’t necessarily like the effects [alcohol] has on people, either, like changing their attitudes, actions, speech, etc.”

Loyola’s administration doesn’t condone the effects of excessive drinking either.

During student orientation, students are taught the Student Promise, which is to care for yourself, others and the community. New Loyola students are also required to take the AlcoholEdu for College course and a short test before the beginning of their first semester. The purpose of this course is to educate students about the risks of alcohol consumption in hopes to reduce alcohol-related incidents, especially among those who are underage.

Loyola also implemented the “Choice. Control. Character.” initiative to support students in making safe and healthy decisions about alcohol.

Through its Campus Coalition for Alcohol Initiatives, Loyola is forming partnerships with its staff, faculty, students and the neighboring community to reduce physical, academic, emotional, social or legal drinking-related incidents.

The initiative includes creation and improvement of campus alcohol policies, prevention education, interventions and environmental modifications.

The ultimate goal of this initiative is to create an environment that promotes responsibility, healthy choices, self-control and good character when making decisions regarding alcohol use on Loyola’s campuses.

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