Everyone knows drinking in college happens. Yet, until there’s an injury or some assault or worse, underage college drinking can be rationalized as a youthful indiscretion and a rite of passage. And, for many, drinking and partying is nothing more serious than an occasional hangover. Of course, if and how much an individual participates in underage drinking will vary. As a Resident Advisor (RA) in college, I saw quite a spectrum amongst first and second year students.
I worked in a team of 8 RA’s in a complex of 8 buildings with 36 residents apiece. The residents drank, and I can’t say that all the residents drank. But, as a team we responded to parties almost weekly, throughout the complex. Our status as part of the community helped the partying students for the most part respond graciously (which could also be because we often took Frank, the police officer assigned to our complex with us), and break up their activities. Even without parties in the complex, Tina, the RA in the neighboring building to mine, spent many nights with passed out residents on couches to be sure they didn’t choke on their vomit after drinking. Almost half the boys in the hall I managed were on academic probation after the first quarter, and I imagine their frequent weekend drinking parties were a contributing factor. Also, since I went to school in San Diego, we frequently responded at 3 am to help locked out residents who had lost their keys or had their purses/wallets stolen while inebriated in Tijuana. And, on a more serious extreme, on other parts of the campus, students were sexually assaulted while intoxicated or hospitalized for alcohol poisoning.
Since the consequences of underage drinking can vary, an open conversation as a family can help soon-to-be college freshmen begin heading to campuses in the next few months be as responsible as possible. While the college staff may also address underage drinking, (I remember warning residents about making sure they had a designated driver, especially if they were coming back from across the border) hearing the message from multiple sources surely can’t hurt. Better to be safe than sorry.