All of our research points to one major cause of excessive drinking on college campuses: the influence of custom and culture on the effect of behavior under the influence of alcohol.
Penn State is known for its blue and white loyalties and, of course, tailgating is a cherished tradition. In order to target the cultural foundations of binge-drinking problems, our proposal involves the university’s most powerful trendsetters: Penn State alumni.
Penn State has one of the largest alumni associations in the world. Many come back every year to visit the place where they forged some of their closest bonds and favorite memories.
Alumni congregate during the football season for love of the game, which usually means a love of tailgating as well. How can we lean on this network of adults to help modify the exaggerations of the current drinking culture on campus?
First, alumni need to be informed that there is a problem. Sure, drinking was a part of their college experience, but for many reasons (some blame Red Bull), the drinking culture has escalated to dangerous — and often lethal — levels.
We know that each year alumni receive mass mailings from their alma mater. Why not include a strong message appealing to their sense of service to the Penn State community? Why not ask alumni to consciously engage in more responsible drinking habits, encouraging moderation by current students?
Might we tap into the competitive spirit of those who bleed blue and white and arrange a “Most Moderate” contest for those tailgaters who provide nonalcoholic beverages, free food for the woozy and other incentives to enjoy pregame festivities without overindulging?
We propose that the university offer competitors the chance to win a VIP football ticket, a signed JoePa item or even a catered tailgate.
Alumni tell us that we are the future. Alumni are our mentors. Together, we are Penn State — and we don’t need to be excessively drunk to uphold that tradition of pride.
Students Jameela Conway-Turner, Joseph Hogan and Shana Douglas contributed this column. Poster design by Lily Sears, Jenn Bean, Taylor Schwartz and Kevin Madensky.