“Rethink The Drink” event discusses binge drinking

University District

Students analyze campus drinking culture in open forum

Rector Cam Yung speaking in the JDUC on Wednesday.

Stopping at the JDUC on Wednesday to discuss binge drinking on university campuses, the cross-Canadian “Rethink the Drink” tour encouraged students to challenge the drinking culture at Queen’s.

The event, run by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) brought speakers Ann Dowsett Johnston and Catherine Paradis to campus, both of whom are anti-substance abuse advocates. Johnston is an award-winning writer and Paradis is a researcher and analyst at CCSA.

The panel included Hannah Billinger, ArtSci ’18, and Alex Hillyer, ArtSci ’18, who serve as co-executives on Queen’s For The Boys — a mental health and substance abuse initiative on campus. The two were accompanied by Rector Cam Yung, who served as moderator. 

A series of clips were shown throughout the night depicting drinking, partying and rape culture. While they were meant to be all-encompassing, many prompted Queen’s-specific examples from those in attendance.

“There’s a definite schedule when it comes to drinking here,” Billinger said. “We have our trivia nights at the pub Wednesday and Thursday, Friday at Ale House, Stages on Saturday. We can’t run an event on Thursday or Friday, because people won’t come. They want to go out, and it’s really, really difficult to try to get people to swap their drinking plans.”  

Multiple people in attendance also cited drinking as an expectation and not a respected choice. Alcohol was labeled a “social lubricant.”

“I need to have an excuse if I’m not drinking,” Hillyer said. “It’s presumed you’re going to drink immediately.” 

When Paradis posed the question of why people pre-drink, multiple students in the audience said it was more affordable. When asked how they defined “binge-drinking,” the answers varied. 

The forum also discussed how drinking expectations and ads for alcoholic beverages are gendered. Data shows that young women will see more ads than men from alcohol companies. 

“The notion of ‘chick beer’ is really disturbing to me,” Johnston said. “A girl two-thirds the size of her male companion is taking shots of tequila while he’s drinking beer. And that’s considered normal.”

According to a 2017 study published in JAMA Psychiatry, alcohol companies started gendered advertising initiatives in the mid-90s to encourage both males and females to drink at the same level. Since, alcohol abuse and dependence among women has increased by 83.7 per cent. 

TV shows, social media and sexual violence were all deemed aspects of drinking culture at the event, but as the discussion wrapped up, the greatest emphasis was placed on personal responsibility. 

“Change happens on a peer-to-peer basis,” Yung said. “To become a caring campus, we have to make a commitment to saying, ‘I care about my friends and colleagues, so how can I make sure they make it home safe tonight?’”

“We’re not saying don’t drink,” Billinger concluded. “It’s okay to go out and over-drink, as long as you realize that and access your resources.”

Resources on campus include the Campus Observation Room in Victoria Hall, the Good2Talk post-secondary student helpline, Walkhome in the JDUC, and Barbara Lotan as Queen’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Coordinator.

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