The Drinking Games

From a piece in Salon comes an interesting interview with an author of a new book about college. According to the article by Thomas Rogers:

Thomas Vander Ven, an associate professor in the department of sociology at Ohio University. In his new book, “Getting Wasted,” he aims to uncover not the dangers of college drinking, but what attracts students to alcohol in the first place. And booze, he finds, not only helps young students alleviate their social anxiety, it helps them grow close friendships, and find romantic love. By taking care of other drinkers when they’re feeling ill, he argues, many student drinkers also get their first taste of adult responsibility, findings that have major implications for the ways in which we think about alcohol.

Really, you wrote a book about this? Didn’t we already know?

Much of this interview is not exactly surprising (people drink because it helps them lose their inhibitions, meet sexual partners, and relax) but one thing struck me as surprising. Massive binge drinking actually appears to come from just a few colleges, at least origionally. As Vander Ven explains:

There was a lot of heavy drinking in the big three Ivy League schools [Harvard, Yale, Princeton]. It represented establishment privilege. If I go away to college and I spend most of my time just drinking, and not working hard, that sort of suggests to my audience that I don’t need to work hard and that I’m one of the elite. Some of that still happens today. One way to demonstrate to your audience that you have a lot of money and status is to buy a round of drinks. And students today are jacking up their credit card debt by buying a lot of drinks for others and themselves.

It’s not just that drinking is fun; it’s that particularly massive binge drinking might be something of a status symbol.

Check out the book here.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer