About Me

My name is Spencer. I'm 23 years old, and I'm a junior at Princeton. So far college has taken me five years. I've taken time off to work, transferred to USC and come back, and learned a lot along the way.

I like to think about life and what I'm going to do with mine.

I've met a lot of people my age with the same sorts of thoughts so feel free to read, take surveys, and comment.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Going too far...

I just remembered the other day about some articles I had read concerning a very interesting and sad (but keep in mind rare) instance concerning a USC fraternity.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/10/usc-kappa-sigma-email_n_834035.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/meredith-fineman/uscs-kappa-sigma-women-ar_b_833935.html

Again, let me first be clear that I am not against Greek life, alcohol, or parties. I have experienced it all myself, but one things still puzzles me: why some students feel the need to get drunk and hook up in order to have fun. I'm letting you know my thoughts about some of that aspect of college culture, while thinking about ways to improve my own college life as well as that of my friends and peers.

This case in the articles is not a reflection of all, or even most, Greek life. Fraternities and sororities are undoubtedly a great place to meet new people and enjoy oneself; however, there are some extremes instances  that can come about as seen by the sexism, bias, and violent nature displayed by USC's Kappa Sigma.

These two articles are about a case of a frat who sent out emails to its members talking about fellow female classmates. It refers to women as objects and, for example, ugly women as filth among many other offensive, sexist, crude, and violent remarks. The whole message reeks of a primitive lifestyle that these boys seem to live by, where the rankings depend on whom you have sex with and how often you "get some". It's a sad reality that there are a rare group of people who look upon other people as simply "targets" and that do not regard non-consensual sex as rape. Such rare instances where these groups go unnoticed can lead to many cases of rape and sexual harassment that in my opinion, spoil college for everybody else and give Greek life and universities a bad name.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Lowered drinking age?

I've gotten emails and comments giving me a simple solution to the alcohol problem: to lower the drinking age so kids get used to alcohol sooner. I will admit that I've thought about that solution before. Quite a lot in fact.

Although it may seem like a viable solution, I don't think it will work very well. Even if it exposes us to alcohol sooner than we normally would, our lives at home would stay the same. Most parents will still feel the same about alcohol regardless of laws. For example, driving a motorcycle is legal for kids if they have the proper education and license, but I doubt most parents will allow their kids to do so. It's also possible that such new laws will make already tense households and parent-child relationships even worse when it comes to alcohol, drugs, parties, and other related topics.

Beyond the issues that parents would have with it, I personally do not think that lowering the drinking age will drastically change the percentage of kids that experience alcohol before they reach the legal age. Where I grew up, alcohol was very accessible. Even from the ages of fourteen and fifteen, if you knew older kids or had an older sibling, you could get alcohol with ease. It was in abundance at parties and formals, and I'd say that many kids in my high school had experienced alcohol well before they went on to university. The only thing a lowered drinking age would do is make alcohol even more accessible to young people.

Also, the problem doesn't lie in exposure. Everyone must get exposed to alcohol eventually and figure out their limits and what they like and don't like. But why, even after we know our individual limits, do we continue to seek to get drunk or "hammered"? Why do we need alcohol to have fun? Are the two really correlated? The idea that fun and consuming alcohol are one in the same must change. By no means do I imply that everybody around our age does thinks that alcohol and fun are correlated, but, as I say in my "Minority" post, there are still a large amount of our peers that do. We should take the time to help them and future generations by changing that mentality.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Alcohol education


Whenever I've had alcohol edu at school, it's always the most boring and pointless waste of time. I've heard different approaches depending on the school and who teaches the "class". Among the various so called strategies I've heard, there are those who advocate no underage drinking at all, those who attempt to scare kids into never drinking through anecdotes about their alcohol and drug problems, those who just read from a rule book, and those who try to teach you the "science" and percentages concerning alcohol, legality, and poisoning. As far as I can tell, none of these ever seem to work. I get so bored and tired of just being fed the same information over and over again. Yes, I would say that some of the things, like how to recognize alcohol poisoning and what to do if it happens, are very important to know; however, in such settings, we don't ever learn it. Most of us don't even care to listen to what's being said at these mandatory meetings. If anything, we resent the fact that older people are telling us what to do without letting us have our say in the matter. I know that I, and I'm sure some of you, have a few friends who go crazy with the alcohol throughout their four years of college because they were too cooped up at home or had overly strict parents.

If we're lucky, we don't have to attend some meeting. Instead, we just have to flip through some slides and take an easy test online. But, to be honest, nobody does it. At my school, there's no penalty for not doing the prescribed alcohol education program. All the administration does is send you an annoying email once a week reminding you, and to top it off, you can just mark it as spam and never see it again.

I'm almost positive that I can speak for nearly everyone and say that we've never had an alcohol edu seminar or class that was nearly as effective as it should have been. In fact, there's only one alcohol edu program that I've ever been to that really made me think. The talk was for student-athletes only and was given by a former student-athlete with previous alcohol problems. He told anecdotes, got the crowd involved, and spoke from his heart; however, the fact that he understood what it felt like to be a college age student, the fact that he hadn't forgotten the experience like most adults, made us connect with him and be persuaded by his words. He lived that party hard life, and he went through the worst of its consequences. I think it was that understanding that allowed us to really get engaged and talk straightforwardly with him.
Unfortunately, that mandatory meeting was only for athletes, not the entire incoming class and not even 40% of the athletes showed up.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The tree

At my university, I'm on a varsity team that has both women's and a men's sides. We practice together and for the most part, we are all pretty close. A lot of kids on the team go to the same parties or throw team parties. We even have a team drink that's, well to be honest, it's terrible.

I occasionally went to team parties when I wasn't too busy but mainly when we, as Freshmen on the team, had to attend for various hazing rituals.

Anyways, we were on the road one weekend during my second semester when one of the Juniors whips out his computer and opens up a window with what looks like an ancestry or lineage tree or even a map of airline flights and destinations. There were little boxes with words in them and arrows and dotted lines going this way and that way. I was about fifteen feet off stretching as I thought, "Wait, that can't be a lineage tree. The lines are going everywhere, and almost every single box is connected." People started to crowd around to get a closer look. I heard people begin to laugh and give high fives, and there were even some looks of shock on some of the girls' faces soon followed by pointing and laughing with one another. I got up and went to inspect what all the fuss was about.

In each little box were the names of everyone on the team, minus, at most, a few. I could only assume what the arrows meant. It was a hook up tree (for those of you who don't know, hook up in this case means sex). I looked at it for a bit blocking out the laughs and high fives and reminiscing of my fellow teammates. There were arrows everywhere. Some had around ten little arrows pointing to their name and some had even more. I knew people got rip-roaring drunk at our parties and hooked up, but I had no idea that casual sex was so frequent and so, for lack of a better word, incestuous within the team. There must have been hundreds of dotted lines and arrows going this way and that way out of a total of about probably fifty or sixty names. And keep in mind, this was only within our small team. There are thousands of students at my university, meaning tens of thousands of dotted lines and arrows pointing from one student to another. A continuously growing chain.

Another surprise to me was that no matter what each Freshman was like in high school. Whether they drank or didn't drink or had sex before or were virgins, almost every single Freshman was on there connected to multiple people, including other Freshmen and upperclassmen.

I clearly remember a couple people say to other team members: "That didn't happen...no way! I don't even remember that." Another would reply: "You're right that was Jacob that she hooked up with that night." Then yet another would say: "Wait no...she hooked up Jacob on Friday, and with this guy that night." The creator of the tree then added: "Shit, I have to add that then."

Names are made up to protect identities.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Our parents' generation

Pretty much every single adult that I've talked to, including my parents, seemed to have enjoyed college. I've been going around asking my friends' parents and other adults I know (from the ages of 40-60), what they thought about college and what the social scene was like back then. So far, of the 15-20 graduates I've talked to, most tell me that there were parties and people did hook up, as they do nowadays; however, there were some obvious differences. Most of them don't recall such a large population of students excessively drinking and using drugs as there presently is. And along similar lines, many don't remember a lot of the social scene revolving around "getting fucked up" and engaging in meaningless sex. They told me that such social activities did occur back then, but with much less frequency and by far less people.*

An even larger distinction in their generation concerns how other students viewed those big partiers. Most parents tell me that those girls who slept around were labeled as sluts and looked at as such. Whereas now, I believe that we (most students), even those that don't sleep around, do not look at our peers as morally inferior or disgusting etc., and even if we do, it's on a much lesser scale than it was during our parents' generation. We've accepted the current social trend as fact and as just an aspect of college life. We don't necessarily have to like it, but why has such a social trend grown so fast? And why don't we do anything about it? Some teachers and administrations have tried and failed to curb such activities, but, as I mentioned in an earlier post, that's not going to stop anything. This needs to be a student movement, not an administrative one.

You may call me old fashioned based on the fact that this loosening of sexuality bothers me, but that's really not the point I'm trying to make. The purpose of what I'm writing remains that there has been a big social change. I'm not by any means making a commentary on women's rights or sexuality or anything related to that. I'm simply asking: why change in this direction? And why so fast? In seemingly one generation, the social culture of college has drastically moved towards a larger party scene with the main goal of getting drunk or getting a buzz and hooking up.

*Keep in mind that I've only talked to a very small group of individuals. I need to conduct a large survey to get an accurate description of college social life a generation ago. What I talk about here is purely based on those responses that I have gotten while talking to those fifteen to twenty adults.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Support (it's not out there yet)

Even though I feel that this topic concerning the excess of alcohol and binge drinking is widely known about, I don't think that it's being sufficiently talked about or has nearly enough eyes focused on it as it should have. In order to change and create safer drinking conditions, this subject needs more support from young, college age students!
Yes, there are very important and volatile things going on in the political, international, and especially financial worlds right now, but that still does not change the fact that college age kids and the generations after them are being adversely affected during some of the most important developmental stages of their lives, both mentally and psychologically. Think about it: each generation of college students will eventually take over for those political, international, and financial leaders that currently run the world. Isn't it better to think about the long term health of the world? The long term health of our student populations and the ones to come after us? Even if we come out fine in the end, is it worth the risk in the first place? Again, I will emphasize that I do not have a problem with drinking in moderation, but I do think that excessive drinking leads people down roads and lifestyles that they otherwise might not have found themselves in.

I was just surfing the web looking for similar blogs on similar subjects, and they do exist. There are actually quite a few of them, but when I check to see what they say, how many followers they have, how many people comment on the subject, and who they are. Here are a couple things that stand out to me.

  • 1) Nobody follows these blogs. There are hardly any page views and even less comments to boot. These people have a passionate topic, but no support. They either don't try hard enough, or don't have a sufficient number of people, especially students, behind them.
  • 2) Most importantly, many of these bloggers and other people who have criticism for our generation and our age group... they're either older people telling us how to do things, or they do not consciously tell people their age, and we have no idea how old they are. They could be disgruntled parents, deans, teachers, professors, kids, quite frankly, they could be anybody. Just look at the list of blogs: http://www.google.com/search?tbm=blg&hl=en&source=hp&biw=1052&bih=709&q=alcohol+college&btnG=Search&gbv=2#q=alcohol+college&hl=en&sa=G&gbv=2&tbm=blg&source=univ&tbs=blgt:b&tbo=u&ei=l2u0Toz-MOTniALx-alk&ved=0CDAQ-Ag&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&fp=44eaab8c14888b01&biw=1052&bih=709 It goes on and on. Fairly anonymous blogger after fairly anonymous blogger.
    • But I have a different approach. I'm 20 years old. I'm going to be a sophomore in college next year, and I'm currently taking a year off. I know what it's like to be in college right now. I know what the social scene is like, and I've participated in it. I've done these things, and I want to see a lot of our generation get behind this movement to end that kind of environment. To really get inspired to stop the binge drinking and the pain that it causes us and our peers, even if they are not aware of it. I'm not some stuffy old guy or current dean or professor who's bashing on students for their parties and habits. I'm one of you. I'm a student who's been to my fair share of parties and seen what college has to offer, and I want to stand up and say, as a current college student, that there is a serious problem, and we, as students, need to do something about it!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Minority

I know that this group of hard partiers isn't the majority of people. I think that there is a large middle ground of students who like to have fun, but not drink so much and randomly hook up. In my opinion I think that give or take it's about 25-40% of the student population that really partakes in that excessive party lifestyle that I don't particularly enjoy. However, just as the percent that participates in this lifestyle differs from school to school, so does the population of the middle ground. Where I'm at school, there are largely two groups: those that go out and get drunk looking to hook up and those who study all the time. I'm absolutely positive that the middle ground exists, but between the difficulty and competition at school and the amount of time consumed by sports, it's very difficult for me to meet people in what little free time I have. And, on top of that, when I don't have work or athletics, I really just want to lie down and watch television in my room, mindlessly play video games, or just catch up on sleep. Everything else seems, well, even more exhausting.

By no means did I mean to infer that the group of "partiers" I spoke of in my last post as a majority. It is undoubtedly a minority, but, let's be realistic, it is a fairly large minority. It's large enough where that mentality of going hard at parties and looking for meaningless sex has fully engulfed the college stereotype in movies and television shows and even in the way that younger people view university nowadays. I don't know the reason behind this universal college aspect; it could be media, more relaxed morals, different generational views on marriage and relationships, or any number of different mediums. Nevertheless, I feel that the most important part about this new trend is not the way it spread, but that it is so pervasive across universities in the United States (I cannot say for sure about foreign schools because I have not been to those other colleges)

Not very far behind comes the second most important part: seemingly no parents, adults, or universities have really done anything about it. I know that everyone knows this newly found college culture exists, but it's as if the entire world has just accepted it as fact. That this is just how it is and there's nothing anybody can do about it, but they'd be wrong. We can still fix the problem. As of now, I don't have a solution, but the point of my argument remains that people are aware of the problem but act as if it doesn't exist. Some places do not even look for a solution or even identify the issue.

Now, one could argue that schools do try to curb the partying and drinking by, for example, making parents' weekend the same as Halloween weekend, or making many exams and midterms the day after well known drinking days (Superbowl, St. Patty's Day, etc), or by giving students many options for extracurricular activities that would take up their time doing productive work rather than partying. But I ask, what about those schools that have deals with local police forces so that student's won't be busted for underage drinking? What about the thousands of adults, parents, alumni, professors, and other football fans who walk through the tailgates and say nothing about a clearly underage girl playing beerpong in practically her underwear? What about those who say nothing about the obvious Freshmen who are chugging beers with their new frat brothers?

Yes, I do agree that it is so pervasive in schools all around the country that it would be very difficult to find a way to curb drinking completely. I do not advocate banning alcohol. I think that would be a misinformed and rash decision for many reasons, including potential riots, protests, unnecessary destruction, etc. But universities should come together with their common problem to attempt to find a solution to the excess, to the binge drinking, to the hazing, and to the mentality that students "need to get trashed  and hammered in order to have a good time." Because that's just not true, alcohol in such excess can only lead to regret and fun can be had in so many different ways.