With last week’s confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the notion of blackout drinking and the drinking culture have been prevalent in the media. Boston University students have a wide range of opinions on the topic — some think BU’s drinking culture is not as worrisome as that of other universities, while others find it concerning.
“Blacking out” occurs when excessive drinking leads to a sudden rise in a person’s blood alcohol content, Ziming Xuan, a professor in the School of Public Health, wrote in an email. It is strongly associated with binge drinking, he wrote.
The memory issues caused by blacking out are just one issue with binge drinking, which can also lead to problems such as violence, injury and sexual assault, Timothy Naimi, a professor in the School of Medicine and SPH, said.
“Blackouts [are] just one piece of a much larger puzzle, or a much wider array of problems caused by binge drinking,” Naimi said.
Blacking out is a red flag for college students, Naimi said, as it may indicate they drink often enough to build up a tolerance to the effects of alcohol that make them pass out.
Samantha Tola, a freshman in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said she thinks BU students understand that they don’t have to drink alcohol to have fun.
“I feel like there’s not peer pressure if you don’t want to go out or drink,” Tola said. “No one would make you say that you have to have fun, especially in the city [with] so much to do.”
Katelyn Willim, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, said BU drinking culture is not as extreme as that of the University of Michigan in her hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
However, some students expressed more concern about excessive drinking at BU.
CAS senior Shannon Sutton said she thinks students drink more safely as they get older, but that many BU students don’t drink responsibly in general.
“As a freshman, everyone I know would drink and often blackout on the weekends and get their stomach pumped and things like that,” Sutton said. “I feel like as I’ve gotten older, I have fewer friends that drink like that or people have just gotten more responsible, but as a whole, I do feel like people here do drink irresponsibly.”
BU students are required to take an online alcohol education course called AlcoholEdu, but Sutton said she thinks students may often skip through it without paying much attention.
Sutton said BU’s administration may not have an effective way to combat the issue of binge drinking on campus.
“I don’t really know if there’s really anything necessarily that the administration can really do,” Sutton said. “I think it needs to be more of a systematic-type thing. I feel like binge drinking culture is really big with American students no matter where you are, really.”
Willim said she thinks BU’s method of encouraging safe drinking is more effective than insisting that students don’t drink at all.
“They don’t really try to restrict us, they just teach us how to stay safe drinking, which I think is better than being like, ‘No drinking, nothing at all,’” Willin said. “I think that’s a better method, [a] more positive method.”
Skyler Gluck, a junior in the Questrom School of Business, said he doesn’t think BU will ever be able to fully stop underage students from drinking.
“Obviously it’s illegal for most students, but I don’t think it’s a problem, because people are going to make their own choices,” Gluck said.
Being in an urban location, Xuan wrote, makes it relatively easy for students to obtain alcohol.
“Excessive consumption is conducive to blackout drinking, so in my view, it is important for BU to tighten its alcohol policies,” Xuan wrote.
Though rates of binge drinking now are the same as or less than the rates of 20 years ago, Naimi said underage alcohol use is still an important issue to address.
“Alcohol is still by far the most commonly used psychoactive drug, including among college students, and problems with drinking on college campuses remain very prevalent,” Naimi said.