Demonizing Drinking Does Not Raise Alcohol Awareness


Author: Michael Darling

It’s October, which means it’s Alcohol Awareness Month, and I cannot wait to see what Oxy’s going to do for it. Last year it appeared as if the general message that was given to students was that alcohol is bad for you. Although there were some positive things, such as a discussion of the Amethyst Initiative, a petition signed by college presidents across the nation, which supported debate over lowering the national drinking age, the majority of material last year focused on the dangers of drinking. Last year it was as if the school was trying to suggest that one really should just abstain from drinking because bad things will happen to you otherwise.

In taking this easier route of pseudo-scare tactics, Oxy unwittingly created a misguided policy that did not dissuade anyone from drinking less than before. This year, Oxy needs to readdress its Alcohol Awareness programming. Oxy should preach that students drink responsibly, rather than simply saying that drinking is potentially dangerous, as this will not stop college drinking problems.

Occidental needs to be realistic in its talking to students about the alcohol issue. One proof of this was a display in the Cooler last year that featured multiple advertisements for beer and liquor. A blank sheet of paper was put out for students to write down the various adverts’ target audience. Some students wrote serious comments about the ads, but by the end of the display’s week on the wall, most of the comments had taken on a humorous nature. These often snarky comments made fun of the more ridiculous qualities of the ads and also the intent behind the Cooler display itself.

Here we can see a failure in communications between organizers and students. This display aimed to get students thinking they were above the influence of advertisers by having everyone write serious criticism of the ad message. Instead, most students showed they were above the influence of Cooler displays by making fun of them. Considering that this item was the most public part of last year’s Alcohol Awareness activities, it did not set a good tone for the event as a whole.

Last year, when the school brought in Emergency Medicine and Sports Medicine specialist Julia Wang, M.D., to talk about the effects of alcohol on the body, she brought up some good information, but also warned that “Drinking might get you pregnant. Have you seen Knocked Up?” This particular quote shows another example of the unprofessional manner in which the school deals with the alcohol issue.

The school must present alcohol awareness in a serious manner that treats the students as adults. For example, this year, residence hall displays have gone up telling how to deal with people suffering from alcohol poisoning. This is very useful information that is presented in a sober manner and gives practical advice that, tragically, students will actually need. Although the alcohol poisoning situations presented in these displays are admittedly harrowing, they do not reek of trying to scare one off of drinking. Instead, these displays serve as both a warning not to binge and also as good advice in the event that one finds a friend in desperate need of help. This sort of display shows a maturity that I don’t recall Oxy exhibiting last year.

So, what we need is an encouragement of temperance. I’m not talking about the teetotaling temperance promoted during the Prohibition era which called for abolishment of alcohol. I’m calling for a promotion of true temperance of moderation and responsible drinking. We need a better understanding of alcohol, not an attempt to scare people from demon liquor. Let’s be perfectly honest, it is ridiculous to think that people under the age of 21 will not drink. There are two options for dealing with this: You can follow the lead of the ostrich and bury your head in the sand and hope it all just goes away, or you can try to promote responsibility and moderation so that we can actually stop overuse.

Occidental shouldn’t even worry about looking like it’s promoting underage drinking if it just uses some simple slogan like, “If you drink, don’t over do it,” “Think before you drink” or perhaps something better. Yes, we must present the danges of alcohol, but we also must teach how to drink responsibly. Just telling minors not to drink will not actually stop underage drinking, and it definitely won’t curb alcohol abuse. What we must do is find a middle ground and acknowledge that college students will drink, but that it should be done in moderation. It is irresponsible, irrational and impractical to think that just because you turn 21 you have suddenly become smart enough to have a drink. Our policies should reflect that understanding.

Michael Darling is a senior History major. He can be reached at

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