Getting drunk is so uncool

In the wake of the recent fraternity pledge death at Chico State University, the community is once again sharply focused on college students and alcohol abuse, even though this latest death was apparently not alcohol-related.

Since that tragedy, however, we’ve had a reportedly intoxicated young man hit and killed by a Union Pacific locomotive and a sorority pledge arrested on a charge of public intoxication after getting so drunk she needed to be hospitalized, the second student to do so in recent weeks. The party-town atmosphere hums along in Chico, and for the moment we are considering its ramifications with elevated awareness.

The root of the problem is painfully simple: alcohol abuse. Not consumption, mind you, but rather gross, flat-out abuse. Let’s face it, we live in a drinking culture hypocritical in the fact that, while adults celebrate booze consumption, we tell young people they can’t partake until they are 21. This creates an undeserved mystique about alcohol as well as a social rite of passage that can lead to abusive behavior. In France there is no minimum drinking age, nor is there a plague of drunken debauchery at the universities like we have here.

You can put the Greek organizations on double-secret probation and prosecute with gusto when fraternity brothers get drunk and kill each other, but that’s not going to solve the problem. We need a shift in our social awareness that recognizes being drunk is just not cool.

It’s happened before. Twenty years ago smoking cigarettes in public—and at work and in restaurants and even in the City Council chambers (the back of each seat used to have an ashtray attached to it)—was perfectly acceptable. Today smoking cigarettes is viewed for exactly what it is—stupid and offensive, just like getting drunk is.