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The Problem With College Tailgates

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    I’m in college and I don’t party. I’m a portion of the small percentage of college students who finds myself more or less “turned off” to massive house parties and being ill from Friday night until Sunday morning. I’m sorry, maybe it’s just possible that I don’t want to get my favorite top stained with cheap beer that I’m not even drinking. The “college experience” is a part of life that every soon-to-be freshman daydreams about; I know I did. Whether I’d skip my early morning class, and have ramen for dinner yet again, are just some of the compelling “what ifs” about this new experience. However, I’ve found that a big part of the college experience is concentrated around partying and tailgating.

    Growing up, I wasn’t really exposed to excessive amounts of alcohol. My parents aren’t big on drinking, and whenever we had guests over, alcohol wasn’t involved. I only ever saw it at holidays, and even then, it was only a small glass of wine. Something about alcohol has just always nudged me away. Maybe my contempt for it is because I’m still underage and illegal activity isn’t on my agenda, the smell disgusts me, and the thought of not having total control of my body really bothers me.

    I personally dislike parties, not only because of the crowds, but mostly because of the alcohol. I tend to get very anxious when I’m around people who are drinking because they’re typically a bit unpredictable. That’s not to say that if you drink, you’re a dangerous and irresponsible person. That’s just my personal feeling towards surrounding myself with people who drink. The other issues with parties and tailgates besides highlighting underage drinking, the expectations that factor into it, and the common double-standard for both genders.

    College tailgates emphasize underage drinking and other illegal activities. At majority of tailgates there are tents set up by fraternities, and outside each tent is a gate. These gates are regulated by the brothers within the fraternity, although there is often a campus security guard somewhere nearby. Of course, the main reason people tailgate nowadays, isn’t to celebrate football and rally school spirit, but to get totally and completely drunk. There’s always a can of beer or a red solo cup in everyone’s hands, as well as torn up boxes of said cheap beer on the ground. Even though there are multiple campus security officers scattered throughout the premises, they don’t place an emphasis on putting a stop to the excessive drinking. While I understand that there are some people here in college who are of and above age to legally drink, most of the people who occupy these tents are freshman. Again, while I know the officers cannot stop everyone, they don’t even try to enforce the “alcohol free environment” that universities promote to their students.

    Kids at tailgates often “binge drink”, which is drinking more than four drinks in two hours or less, with the intent of becoming intoxicated. As per an article written by UnityPoint Health, Dr. Sean Miran explains that binge drinking during college years has the potential to lead to bad consequences: alcohol poisoning, unintentional injuries, increased risk of aggressive behavior, as well as unplanned and unprotected sex, which can in turn lead to an increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Even though it may seem like the short-term effects are just symptomatic of a bad hangover, the effects of binge drinking can follow through into adulthood. Long-term issues can include strokes, neurological damage, and severe liver diseases. College tailgates reinforce underage drinking, which can lead to critical damage later on in adult life. Part of the reason, I think, why people my age drink so much is to make social situations easier, to relieve stress, and to fit in with the rest of their peers.

    Not only is underage drinking an extreme issue with tailgates, but there are so many social pressures that are involved. Shortly after move-in day this past August, I was approached by someone on my floor and they asked if I liked to “go out” on weekends. I was totally thrown off by that, I mean what kind of a question was that? Of course I went out on weekends! I soon realized that my definition of “going out” and hers were very different. To her, going out only meant going to a party. To me, going out meant enjoying myself outside of my dorm room. After I told her about not going to parties often, her face said it all, as if that simple fact defined who I was. Suddenly, I realized and fully understood that to many people, especially my age here in college, whoever who doesn’t party is automatically labeled weird. Not partying carries the insinuations that one doesn’t know how to have fun and is a clichéd loner. But that’s far from the truth. Just because I don’t see myself at a party on a Friday night doesn’t mean that I have nothing else to do. It also shouldn’t make me subject to judgment as a hermit. Not partying doesn’t mean you’re missing out, because I personally feel like I’ve done a fairly good job in making and keeping friends so far.

    I just don’t want to be embarrassed to tell people that I don’t like to party with the fear that it will prompt them to automatically judge me as a complete and utter weirdo. In fact, one of my friends was recently telling me about one of her new experiences at college. She told me she felt pressured into drinking at one of her tailgates because “that’s what everyone else was doing,” and I was immediately reminded of all the anti-peer-pressure lectures and videos that were shown to me throughout my years in school. She explained that she didn’t want to seem like an inexperienced freshman, so she gulped an ill-advised amount of alcohol, not realizing that it was far beyond her limit. But it wasn’t her fault- she didn’t even know what her limit was. She tried justifying the situation by describing that if she didn’t go to these parties and tailgates, she would essentially be ostracizing herself from the social scene. Especially now, the misconception is that it seems like partying is the only way to build friendships and those who don’t play a part in it are excluding themselves from the college community.

    College tailgates have also become somewhat of a business deal. Typically, guys will supply the alcohol and an environment where others can come to party, and in return, they expect that their desired guests, usually women, will show up and socialize. I believe that this situation is quite degrading for females. Part of the reason alcohol is so readily provided is because it is known that it will attract women. When an interaction between both genders begins with this incentive, there is usually depersonalization before the interaction has even started: with the women very blatantly being assigned a certain value in the cost of alcohol is will take to get them to show up. Besides the fact that the incentive provided is an intoxicant and serves to hinder the judgement of the women who accept it. By accepting free alcohol from men, women are enabling a situation to occur where sexual predators can easily make the mistake of feeling like they are owed something just because they were nice and decided to share their beer. This system is dangerous and misogynistic, and the problem is that there are very clear and enticing rewards for both genders. Women get free alcohol, and men get the assurance that people will show up to their parties.

    College tailgates carry several issues. They promote and enforce underage drinking, carry severe societal pressures, and convey an extreme double standard.

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