Deliberation Reflection

The deliberation that I attended was “School Spirits: Regulating Drinking Culture Across Penn State.” In it, the group led a discussion of what students believe to be the most effective approach for universities to use when regulating students drinking. The three analyzed approaches were Penn State’s current policies, laxer policies, and stricter policies.

This deliberation relied heavily on audience participation, much more so than my group’s deliberation did. After 90 minutes of guided discussion, the completely student-comprised audience from a variety of backgrounds came to a modified consensus that looser policies would promote safer drinking habits on multiple levels.

What was interesting about this deliberation was how it began with each student in attendance stating why he or she chose to attend this particular event. The answers that students gave varied greatly. Many came because of the prominence of Penn State’s drinking culture in their own lives as students, while others who said that they do not party often cited wanting to learn more about opposing views. The most common response though regarded the Kairos of the deliberation, considering the recent course of events with the tragic death of Timothy Piazza and its implications that have reshaped the school’s social scene.

As a group, we immediately ruled out Penn State’s current rules as the best way to address the issue in students’ lives, considering the neutered effects of initiatives like the SAFE program and advice given at NSO. We then decided against stricter rules considering how existing deterrents have proved futile and how students always seem to manage to find loopholes to get what they want. Plus, as any parent or person of authority probably knows, forbidding something only makes it more desirable. Additionally, intensive implementation likely wouldn’t be effective. Additionally, it would also distract administrators and law-enforcement officials from other crimes that would go undetected.

The group concluded that more lenient policies would diminish the thrill that seems to accompany drinking if it were outlawed and that students would feel open to seek help for an intoxicated peer if punishment were not a major threat.

However, regardless if Penn State were a dry or wet campus, the drinking age won’t age. And the majority of students who live on campus and are subject to the school’s rules for dorms are underage so they would still be technically not allowed to drink under state law.

Furthermore, there are wet campuses across America where a drinking culture is also paramount. Granted, not every school is located within a town that shuts down for a made-up binge-drinking holiday every February but alcohol plays a large role on a majority of college campuses. Partying does claim a major stake in student life at schools across the country though, whether that be students attending frat parties at state schools in secluded areas, using fake IDs to go to bars in cities, doing shots in their dorm rooms, or filling up a Solo cup from a keg at a tailgate.

The problem with the drinking culture is how Americans in general view alcohol. One student present was from another country where she can legally drink. Hearing her talk about the differences between how her and her friends at home drink and view alcohol and how students here do the same things, demonstrated that cultural differences greatly influence how groups of people act.

In a sense, we were on the right track by concluding that a more relaxed approach would be beneficial, however, I think that we need to extend that responsibility to our culture and government as a whole, as opposed to the universities.

The universities should be educating effectively in order to ensure that students are informed about what they are doing rather than scare them. It shouldn’t be their responsibility to police students when other countries demonstrate that it is possible for 18 year olds not to find ecstasy in drinking.

One comment from a student that stood out to me much more than any of the other ones that I heard throughout the evening was that “We spent all of high school being controlled and taught how to be adults. College should be a time where we are treated like them.”

This desire for autonomy shows that this issue can be much more than students wanting to party. It’s about wanting to be able to make decisions and take care of one’s self.

There will always be the few who abuse this freedom and neglect the responsibility that comes with it. However, there are adults of all ages who also can’t control themselves. I think students just want that power in college to decide who they want to be and what they want to do.

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