Without fail, there are a few things at Penn State that will be seen every year. Consider them the Happy Valley’s “death and taxes.”
-- Beaver Stadium will never be empty on game day.
-- THON will continue to raise millions for the Four Diamonds Fund.
-- And, unfortunately, there will always be issues with dangerous drinking.
Students seem to think that the issue came to light with the recent death of Joseph Dado, but this community knows better.
State College has seen too many young men and women lose their lives due at least in part to alcohol consumption. And worse, it hasn’t seen students paying attention.
I have never been skydiving or hang gliding, but I have driven down Beaver Avenue on a Saturday evening. That is the scariest thing I have done in my life.
Any given weekend (which can begin Thursday, Wednesday or the previous weekend), students can be seen doing a reenactment of the game “Frogger.” They dart out into traffic and jump on passing vehicles.
All around campus, there are tequila-soaked signs celebrating Penn State’s status of No. 1 party school, and Facebook profiles share this treat: “PS-We pregame harder than U party.”
The place is called Happy Valley because it’s recession-resistant, but I’d bet a Monkey Boy most students think it’s for another reason.
There was a moment after Dado’s death that the student body seemed to just get it. Binge drinking was looked at not just as what happens between Friday and Saturday, but also as a potential hazard to students’ health.
An online movement called for one night of no parties in State College. Fraternities suspended social functions. In general, Beaver Avenue seemed a little less Frogger-ish.
But it didn’t last.
The fraternity party suspension ended this weekend. The no-party holiday has passed. Beaver Avenue is once again the scariest road this side of the Autobahn.
The reason is simple: students didn’t like being afraid of drinking. Fear is not a very good long-term motivator.
And unfortunately, there’s not much else the Town and Gown can do to make students change. It has to be a social change.
When I moved away from the downtown this year, I quickly discovered just how big of a difference there can be between “a beer or two” and “a beer.” One’s cheaper and healthier; the other can mean serious issues at the sobriety checkpoint.
Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims should be commended for his work in his still-young Penn State career. He doesn’t deny that binge drinking is a problem here, but he also doesn’t try to scare student from it. He’s the kind of guy who will talk about a student’s issues over a beer with him.
Moving a couple of miles off campus isn’t an option for most Penn State students, so it’s not likely students will have a social change because of that.
Instead, students should take note of Sims.
Have a beer with a professor after class. Share a bottle of wine over dinner with friends. Celebrate great moments with a toast.
State College doesn’t need to be afraid of drinking to fix its problems.