Parties and Prairie Stars

It is a taboo if inevitable truth that some college students party and binge drink. UIS is not an exception. Some students may even see partying and drinking heavily as the exact same thing, rendering one unable to occur without the other. For whatever reasons that may emerge in the moment – stress, peer pressure, curiosity, rebellion, perceived social normativity – UIS students may turn to alcohol, sometimes to excess or while underage. 

 As the D.A.R.E lion informed us throughout our elementary school years, this can open up the possibility of vulnerability, a lack of ability to keep oneself and others safe, arrest, drunk driving accidents, and alcohol poisoning. However, it is not the top priority of faculty and staff of the University of Illinois Springfield, or even local law enforcement, to lecture or get students in deep water for underage drinking or other “party offenses.” Students who are hospitalized will not be indicted for underage drinking. Even though there could hypothetically be legal consequences for illegal actions, the well-being of students comes before that, every time. Lauren Huff, 3rd Floor Resident Assistant in Founders Residence Hall, emphasizes this fact: 

 “I don’t have the experience of shutting down parties [on campus], but my training emphasizes safety over everything. Our goal is never to get people in trouble if someone’s sick or needs medical attention. I’m not necessarily gonna say ‘don’t drink’ because no one’s just gonna take the word of the R.A., but if you do, have a group of friends so each of you can look out for each other.” 

 There are copious other ways in which students can minimize risk and stay safe while still being able to have fun. Knowing one’s limits, not listening to peer pressure, drinking lots of water, not drinking on an empty stomach, not mixing different types of alcohol or other substances, designating “party mom” friends to look out for others, not “pregaming,” not drinking all at once, etc.  

 Additionally, Huff provided insight as to why self-destructive choices and the fend-for-yourself mindset tend to happen at parties, including at UIS; the entire culture is the proverbial elephant in the room. Administrators and the like tend to refrain from talking about these issues in order to maintain a certain image. However, it is this lack of an ability for students to speak freely about what happens on a typical Friday night that keeps the problem circulating. “…[P]eople are less likely to get help or get involved because they are scared of the repercussions,” Huff stated. “[UIS] policies for parties don’t always have clear guidelines for what to do.” 

 One solution she posited has to do with reaching out to freshman before they encounter post-high-school party culture. Implementing party advice and knowledge into a freshman seminar class, she said, would “incorporate ways to be responsible and safe” at a time where students may need those words most of all.