On American college campuses, binge drinking has been a major problem and is generally considered as an inappropriate and a harmful behavior. Nevertheless, in some cultures drinking is regarded as a part of their tradition and an act of sincere respect. As a matter of fact, drinking does not only occupy a significant portion of people’s lives all around the world, but it is even regarded as impolite to refrain from drinking at a table with friends. Daniel Cook-Huffman, Dean of Students shares his perspective on drinking in America.
Q: What role does drinking play in American culture?
A: In my opinion, drinking is probably the most accepted and yet the most destructive drug in America. It plays a role in self-medication, used as a way to bring people together socially. Generally, it serves some ways as a positive function, helps people to relax, and even integrate socially. It helps people to lower their inhibitions, but it causes lots of addiction, and lots of auto accidents from alcohol.
Q: What is it that causes Americans to have bad drinking habits?
A: There are a number of reasons. We don’t deal with alcohol as well in a legally cultural sense. In many other cultures in the world, alcohol is more normalized and it’s not made to be such a big deal. Whereas here legally we have a law to drink over 21, so that encourages people to break the law to try alcohol and to use it irresponsibly earlier.
Q: Why is the drinking age so high?
A: During the time when the automobile was introduced in America, instead of building a lot of transportation, we decided to build more highways and make people use cars. Therefore the only ways for young people to get around are automobiles. In the mean time, there’s been scientific proof that when they raised the drinking age to 21, automobiles fatalities among 18 to 20 years olds went down significantly. There’s definitely a correlation between the higher drinking age and lower the number of traffic fatalities that happened. Also, the temperance unions, which actually help to bring about Prohibition many decades ago, is still a fairly powerful legacy, and they have left a mark on American culture trying to limit access to alcohol.
Q: In your opinion, do you think drinking is a necessary part of the college experience or even essential for the American culture?
A: I think every college student has to face their relationship with alcohol, but it’s not necessary for everyone to drink. It depends on who you are and what kind of choices you decide to make. For the part it takes in American culture, I don’t think alcohol is going to go away, and there are many alcohol-related businesses and wine brands in our culture. There are a lot of great traditions of making wine and alcohol, so I think it plays a very important part in our culture.
Q: What is your opinion of college drinking?
A: I support responsible drinking and don’t go overboard. It’s very unfortunate that we have to go to the hospital because students drink too much and get really sick, but it doesn’t happen very often, so that must tell me there are many more students who are drinking but are not getting that carried away. I hope students won’t feel that they have to drink in order to have friends and have fun. We found out from the surveys we do for Juniata students that there’s not a lot of peer pressure on this campus. I like the idea of people being very supportive and let others be who they desire to be. However, I’m not opposed to drinking, but I’m very much in favor in responsible drinking.
-Helen Hu, Juniata Online Journalist