Drinking Culture: Part I

 By Connor Renshaw

Many college students drink alcohol. Each school has its own drinking culture and Ripon College is no exception. But students believe that while drinking is common on campus it is usually done in a safe and responsible manner.
According to a survey recently sent out to the student body, a majority of the 114 students who responded, 66.4 percent, drank alcohol in the past month. According to information published online by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, this is slightly above the national average of 60 percent.

David Firari, a senior who chooses not to drink, points to a lack of activities as a contributing factor to students drinking on campus. “There’s always the joke: what can you do on the weekends? Drink or go somewhere else,” Firari said.
Biff Floodstrand, a senior who has also been an RA (Resident Assistant) for two years, agrees that the lack of activities on campus, especially on weekends, contributes to the drinking culture. As a result, she said, “Residence Life staff has been trying to work on getting more events on the weekends.”

Desiree Caswell, a junior who turned 21 this month, sees the culture of the state, which is known in part for its breweries, as influencing the culture on campus. “Drinking at college is accepted, I think a lot of that [has] to do with us being in Wisconsin,” she said.

According to Ryan Hanrahan a recent transfer student who initially went to a non-residential school, there is less drinking at Ripon College than he thought there would be on a college campus. “I expected that the residence halls would be noisy on the weekends with parties, which I found to be true. Overall, however, there are actually fewer parties and less drinking than what I expected,” he said.

Underage drinking is common on campus. 62.49 percent of the students who responded to the recent survey on campus drinking culture were under 21 years of age. Because only 33.6 percent of those who responded said that they had not consumed alcohol in the past month, at least some of those who responded drank underaged.
Floodstrand, who works as an RA in Scott Hall, feels that the Quads are where most of the drinking on campus occurs. “You see a lot of people cutting through Scott to go to the Quads,” she said. “You’re always surprised to see how many underclassmen are headed out that way.”

While underaged drinking violates Ripon College policy, students feel that the risk of getting caught is low. Hanrahan said that while the consequences of getting caught drinking underaged can be severe, “if students are responsible and knowledgeable when drinking alcohol these risks are secondary.”
Students hold a similar attitude toward the risks associated with any kind of drinking that violates college policy. In the survey on campus drinking culture, students were asked to rate the risk of disciplinary action associated with drinking that violates college policy on a scale of one to five, with one labelled as “no risk at all” and five labelled as “very high risk.” 71.1 percent of students who responded selected options between one and three. The largest portion, 31.5 percent, selected three, which represented moderate risk.

Firari sees this perception as a result of how RAs approach drinking on campus. “ResLife here doesn’t really seem to be out to get you,” he said. “I don’t hear of that many incidents. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were one or two a weekend, but that seems pretty moderate compared to what it could be based on how many people I would assume drink every weekend.”
According to Floodstrand, part of why students are not often caught is that the RAs don’t always know when people are drinking.“If you are with a group of people in a room and abiding by the policy of quiet hours and courtesy hours, an RA doesn’t have any reason to knock on your door,” she said. “As an RA, it’s just known that [drinking] is probably going to happen and that there’s not a lot we can do about it.”

Although alcohol consumption is commonplace on campus, most students also feel that it is optional. Eighty-three percent of responders to the survey on campus drinking culture said that they did not feel pressured to drink by other students. According to Caswell. she has never felt seriously pressured to drink by other students. “I could always back off if I was done and didn’t want more,” she said.
Firari, who is an inactive member of the Theta Chi fraternity, describes drinking as optional within campus Greek Life as well. “There’s this notion of oh no, a fraternity, I shouldn’t join because they are going to make me drink,” he said. “I was like, ‘I don’t want to drink,’ and they said ‘OK, cool; here’s two other guys who don’t drink.”
Additionally, students see Ripon College as a safe place to drink. 67.9 percent of those who responded to the survey on campus drinking culture said that they felt safe drinking on campus.

This is part of a three part series.