Sobering up about post-secondary party culture

Party culture shouldn’t dominate the university experience—both students and institutions need an attitude shift.

Freedom, indulgence, and defiance appeal to many teenagers and young adults, and post-secondary partying exemplifies them all.

I was excited to attend parties the minute I stepped out from under my parents’ roof. Falling into the trap of party culture in my first semester, I quickly realized it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Most of the time, the risks outweigh the benefits.

It’s understandable to consider house parties an easy way to meet and connect with a variety of people. They’re casual, conveniently located, and free to attend. However, they raise questions about how we view the academic experience.

Long nights of intense socialization are often seen to combat equally intense studying during the week. Alternating between extremities of behaviour isn’t healthy or sustainable and could lead to a student becoming exhausted and burnt out.

The substance use that characterizes partying brings with it serious risks. Acute effects of alcohol intake include impaired memory and impulsive behaviour, while marijuana can cause confusion and fatigue, according to the Government of Canada. Combining the two increases effects and can be potentially deadly.

Substance use of any kind impairs judgement—and those dangers aren’t limited to legal substances. According to a 2006 US study, approximately 23 per cent of college students under 21 have attended a party where illicit drugs were used. Narcotics like Flunitrazepam, commonly known as Rohypnol or “roofies,” can be dropped into open drinks at parties, and there’s no guarantee substances provided to partygoers were responsibly obtained and are free from dangerous fillers like fentanyl.

Student parties are often exclusionary, reinforcing stereotypes and negative cultures. According to a 2018 research brief, partying, particularly before and after sports events, involves poorly regulated social contact and may increase incidences of rape among college students.

This type of social contact can facilitate incidents of aggression towards students from equity-seeking groups, and perpetrators are less likely to see consequences for their behaviour from peers when no authority figures are present.

School-sanctioned events should encourage students to do away with street and house parties in favour of more controlled environments where everyone feels safe and can enjoy themselves equally. Campus clubs, social groups, and organizations supply a range of opportunities for students of all backgrounds to connect over shared interests and relax in a non-academic environment without the risks of partying.

A change in culture is needed for students to achieve a more balanced lifestyle and lessen the need for weekly partying. Whether this starts with the voices of students or those of institutions, the consequences of high-risk behaviours need to be clear.

Students, especially incoming first-years, need to know there are ways to enjoy themselves responsibly, and grow in confidence socially, without sacrificing their health or their education.

Norah is a second-year English student and one of The Journal’s Copy Editors.


first year, party culture, Student life

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