A Drinking Town with a Communication Problem

State College - Centre Daily TimJanuary 31, 2011 

When discussing the drinking culture in State College, you often hear locals or administrators talk about the need to parent the student population. They point to issues of maturity, responsibility, and respect. On the other hand, students wear the drinking culture like a badge of freedom. They point to the older generation and say, "You may raise our tuition. You may move our seats at football games. But you'll never take our beer bottles."


Similar to most parent-child relationships, both sides just don't understand each other. Students see Penn State's bans on shot glasses and drinking during football games, and they think that the university is trying to kill all drinking—and they get mad. Local and university leaders chastise the whole student body as out of control barbarians, when it's only a small few that cause trouble—most times. But with each rule and ban, with every new policy and mounted police horse, another student carries his or her freedom flag to the beer distributor. 


It's just interesting that every step either side takes is in the opposite direction of each other. How do you tell someone something is wrong when they are having so much fun doing it? I live downtown. Other than a select few who've had a few too many, every wandering student has a big friendly smile on their face. They are carefree, they are social, and they are happy. 


With each new drinking holiday and each new university policy the communication gap gets wider. A survey found that over 50 percent of Penn State students admitted to binge drinking. That is approximately 20,000 18-22 year olds roaming around this small town in the wee hours of the morning.


Like so many others, I don't have the answer. High penalties might be it. Two strikes and you're out, maybe three. Or two strikes and you're suspended for a year? You can cruise through community service and mommy and daddy can pay fines, but a suspension is pretty huge. There's not a better way to teach responsibility than creating consequences. 


Penn State says it itself: "It's Your Time." When students enroll here, they are taking that slogan literally. It's their time to make a "memorable" four, five, sometimes six years. It's their time to have the time of their lives. If you're stepping in with that attitude, you don't want anyone else taking it away from you. 

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