What is college?
It is defined by Merriam Webster as “an independent institution of higher learning offering a course of general studies leading to a bachelor’s degree.”
The online collaborative dictionary alternative defines college as “A magical place where it is rumored that learning takes place although, to those who enter it’s often described differently afterward—as a beautiful land in which beer flows in amber currents next to a golden pasture. It involves rampant consumption of alcoholic beverages, flagrant and promiscuous sexual behavior, and a general and fundamental disregard for any form of responsibility by its inhabitants.”
The Butler University administration has certainly seen the latter definition becoming more prominent within the student body these last few years.
In a freshman survey among Butler students, 50 percent reported having consumed alcohol prior to coming to college and having expectations for the party scene of college stereotypes to be a reality.
In addition, 67 percent of freshman students surveyed reported drinking at least one time per weekend.
A record-breaking number of hospital visits in a semester, coupled with the startlingly high alcohol use statistics among Butler students than those of other Indiana universities has raised concerns of where these issues are originating.
Open Alcohol Forums, in which campus officials seek student opinions, have been held for ResCo, Schwitzer Hall, Apartment Village, the Greek presidents and the Greek community.
Questions such as, “Why are students drinking more? When did the nightlife become about being black-out drunk? How can we as a university look to overcome these issues?” have been posed to students in order to determine the university’s plan of action.
Overall, students attending the forums said the university could provide more freshman sober programming as well as extending alcohol education programming beyond the first few weeks of the semester.
Coordinator of Health Education and Outreach Programs Sarah Barnes said Butler is working to create an “alcohol task force” that would work to adjust university alcohol policies and increase high-risk drinking awareness.
She said members of the task force would most likely include Butler University Police Department officers, Office of Student Affairs officials, university students and herself.
“We might try talking more with incoming students’ parents so that they can be the ones having that discussion before the students even get to Butler,” she said. “We are also going to work on more appropriately adapting high-risk programs and make students more aware.”
Barnes said students need to understand the responsibilities and obligations to themselves that come along with living on their own.
“It’s a personal responsibility,” she said. “We have to be holding ourselves as adults in the college community.”
Barnes said it was not only the statistics that caused concern for the administration, but also the reaction of alumni after events such as homecoming.
“Our numbers drew some attention in that we’ve seen an increase, but also anecdotally a response from recent Butler alumni who have expressed concern on the amount of drinking they saw on homecoming,” Barnes said.
The response of alumni, in conjunction with the rise of alcohol-related deaths in colleges and universities across the country, has made the Butler administration question if this is a generational problem, Barnes said.
Senior Joe Wadlington said drinking issues are affecting far more than just Butler.
“I feel this rise in drinking is occurring all over the country, not just on our campus,” he said. “[It] is more a characteristic of our generation than a problem on campus.
“While a social campus can easily encourage drunken behavior, unsafe choices are the responsibility of the individual.”
Wadlington said part of the reason Butler might see higher statistics than other Indiana universities is the campus size and layout.
“Because we have a walking campus, individuals can stumble from party to party knowing if they play it sober at the front door they can make it in and possibly find more alcohol.
That is what is so unsafe,” he said. “These aren’t just anonymous people. Because Butler is a small school, we are all very well aquatinted.
“Our close-knit community of care can keep people safe, but it can also foster dangerous behavior.
“Individuals may make riskier choices if they think their friends and acquaintances will keep them safe.”
As a member of the Greek community, Wadlington said he appreciates the fact that Butler looks beyond the ‘Greek stereotype’ and recognizes the issue cannot be blamed on a single group.
“I’ve been involved in several forums about alcohol with the administration and each time they have made it clear that Greek houses are far from the only culprits,” he said. “As a freshman I was invited to drink in most of the housing units on campus.
“It’s clear that alcohol abuse doesn’t care where you live.”
Statistics from the freshman survey reflect this statement, as 77 percent of students reported drinking the same amount or less now that they had joined the Greek community and an additional 13 percent said they drink more frequently, but less per sitting.
With the implementation of the alcohol task force and the university looking to create more freshman programming, Wadlington said he thinks Butler is doing the best thing possible to protect its students.
“Any university’s administration should be concerned about their students’ drinking,” he said. “I appreciate Butler’s realization that they cannot put a stop to drinking and that their time is better spent on education than prevention.”