Imagine it’s the week before your 21st birthday. You’re probably looking forward to going out with your friends and having the time of your life next week. After what felt like an eternity of not being able to drink legally, you’re almost in the clear. Just as you’re thinking this, your parents call you and ask if you have any idea why Drexel’s Office of Alcohol, Other Drug and Health Education mailed a letter to your home. Certain that you hadn’t violated Drexel’s drug or alcohol policies recently (or at least hadn’t been caught), you say you don’t know and ask your parents to open the letter. Much to the relief of you and your parents, it turns out the letter is just a card wishing you a happy 21st birthday. It lists some drinking safety tips and alternative leisure activities for celebrating your birthday, and it also contains a $5 gift certificate to one of Drexel’s Campus Dining eateries.
For many Drexel students, this scenario has been a reality. The Office of Alcohol, Other Drug and Health Education, in conjunction with Student Life and Drexel Business Services, has sent out these cards for the past two years to students who are about to turn 21. Some of us on the Editorial Board received our cards fairly recently, and it got us thinking about why these cards need to get sent out. We’ve had these warnings pounded into us countless times from high school health class to freshman orientation. While some of us surely did not need to be reminded of how to drink responsibly, we must acknowledge the unfortunate truth that not everyone our age thinks and acts like an adult, especially in the college social setting.
We are glad that Drexel issues these friendly reminders, especially considering that many social circles on college campuses strongly encourage their members to celebrate their 21st birthday by binge drinking. People have died doing just that, most recently a student at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa on Oct. 8. It is certainly understandable to want to celebrate this rite of passage with a drink or two, but to feel like you have to drink 21 shots in order to gain acceptance? This is a sad reality of the mainstream culture of American college students today.
Anyone who would praise you for binge drinking, regardless of whether it’s your 21st birthday or some other time, is not really your friend. Real friends value each other’s safety unequivocally above all recreational elements of their relationship. A real friend would never want to see you deliberately endangering your own life by alcohol poisoning or by any other means. If any of your friends don’t meet these standards, it would be wise of you to have a frank discussion with them about what’s really important in your friendship.
All that being said, we hope that you’ll celebrate your 21st birthday responsibly when it comes, or if you’re already 21, that you’ll encourage others to drink responsibly. If you choose to drink, take common-sense precautions like going out with people you trust and assigning a designated driver if you’re driving somewhere. For more tips on how to drink safely or confront friends who binge drink, visit Drexel’s Office of Counseling and Health on the second floor of Creese Student Center or online at www.drexel.edu/studentlife/ch.