The Joys of Not Drinking by Anna Patton

stay sober.jpgIt may not look like it, but Santa Clara University is a party school.

We may not have known that when applying. We may not have known that when we first stepped foot on campus. But as soon as “welcome weekend” hit, everyone found out the college campus culture they were really getting themselves into. And depending on who you are, you may have been happy or you may have been disappointed. Despite our curb appeal as a small, private Jesuit University, we happen to have made College Niche, an online college-ranking site, top 100 party schools list as number 68, two spots ahead of UCLA.

If you ask most students around campus why they go out all the time, their response is usually one in the same, they all seem to say that there is nothing else to do here. It’s an unfortunate truth; the closest source of entertainment is going to Bill’s Cafe down the street on Saturday mornings and getting pancakes to curb the nasty hangover we got the night before.

If you ask around school and talk to the social butterflies, they all say they love the party scene. They love going out on Tuesdays and Thursdays to the bars, and Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays to parties.

But there is a community of people we have completely forgotten. What about the non-drinkers? Those who don’t enjoy drinking, those who were possibly disappointed when they learned that Santa Clara was such a big party school, what about them?

After talking to numerous students around campus, it was clear that there were two distinct types of people in the “non drinking” scene at Santa Clara. These two types of people were perfectly exemplified through two of the interviews I conducted on the subject.

Meet Lane Cunningham, a current freshman here at Santa Clara. Apart from his winning smile and outgoing personality, something sets Lane apart from a lot of the students here at school. He has never tasted alcohol before in his life and he says that he most likely will not drink until his late twenties and even then he won’t drink much. Lane has also recently joined one of the fraternities off campus, which usually implement a lot of alcohol into their pledging processes.

After bombarding him with many questions of, “Are you sure? No but are you actually sure? So you’ve never even had a sip at all? What about wine? No? Nothing?” I finally accepted the fact that Lane was telling the truth.

Lane has never felt pressured into drinking at Santa Clara despite being in a fraternity, “Everyone is really supportive of me.”

Lane’s decision not to drink comes from the way he was brought up and the fact that he likes being there for friends, “I got comfortable with going to events sober. I like being there for friends and I got comfortable with being the designated driver all of the time.” Lane knew what he was getting himself into when he made his decision to come to Santa Clara University, it didn’t bother him at all and the transition was easy due to the fact that he had gotten comfortable with not drinking in high school.

Lane says it’s never really been awkward for him going to events, but he did laugh and say it was a little uncomfortable when he went to a “date and a fifth” once, an event where you and your date are supposed to finish a fifth of alcohol between each other. Lane doesn’t look down on people for drinking, however, he does believe that drinking can lead to bad habits, “Scientifically, you shouldn’t drink until about age twenty-four but that’s never really talked about. I think that if you start drinking too early it can cause bad habits.But for the most part I think that in a controlled environment it’s relatively ok.”

Lane doesn’t go to the on campus events catered towards those who don’t drink because he has never heard of them and even if he had he would not go; “I still like to go out and meet people and those events are probably made for the people who don’t like going out at all even if they’re sober.”

In contrast to Lane, a Santa Clara student who would like to remain anonymous said that she had definitely heard of the events held on campus catered to students who don’t like going out because she attended many as a freshman. She thinks that the events are important to have, “I think they are a good alternative to going out. It’s nice to get free food and it’s a fun thing to do but I would say it’s not the plan for the night but it’s a good way to meet up with friends to go and do something afterwards.”

Continuing the conversation, she also commented on the fact that she thinks the University does enough to provide activities for those who don’t enjoy going out, “I think there are enough events. The Activities Planning Board and the Residential Learning Communities both do programming and if you added more it would be spread too thin. If people don’t go out they know what they like to do that’s not going out. People who want to go to these events go to them, they know about them.”

Her own view on drinking is that, “I personally don’t drink. I’m pretty drunk in real life I don’t need alcohol to feel crazy. I get annoyed when other people are drinking if I have to take care of them. That’s when it gets annoying. I don’t care as long as you can be responsible.” She knew that Santa Clara was a party school when deciding to come here and was okay with it. She said that on her initial tour of the school her tour guide told her that they don’t have drinking in the residence halls and the fact that the Greek system was off campus made her feel better about coming here.

Through my conversations with students here at Santa Clara, and through my interviews with Lane and she who shall not be named, it became clear that there are students who don’t drink who still enjoy going out despite the fact that they are always sober, and a lot of students who don’t enjoy going out and are happy that these events on campus are available to them. The moral of the story is, if you do not like to drink, despite being a party school, there are groups of people for you to fit in with and you are not alone.


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