Working & playing hard

Why you should avoid the Queen’s culture of bingeing on books and beer

Long study sessions followed, or combined, with heavy drinking are prime components of binge culture.
Long study sessions followed, or combined, with heavy drinking are prime components of binge culture.

The infamous “work hard, play hard” atmosphere defines the university experience for many Queen’s students—a phenomenon that Health, Counseling, and Disability Services director Mike Condra calls “binge culture.”

“It can be characterized by the over-consumption of a particular activity in a short and compressed period of time,” he said. “It encourages students to undertake great amounts of strain.” Although most people associate the term “bingeing” with alcohol and food, it can be used to describe students’ study habits as well.

Binge studying can involve a variety of things, including cramming, procrastination and poor time management.

“It can work now and again,” Condra said, “but it becomes a pattern. It could throw a person’s schedule out of sync.” Condra said students who study between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. don’t retain much of the information they read.

“Not much goes in,” he said. “The sleep deprivation acts just like alcohol. It impairs their judgment, their physiological functioning, and everything becomes harder.” Stauffer Library is often filled with students during all hours of the day and night to read, prepare for their midterms or exams and complete any work they may have.

“Students feel that they need to come to the library,” said Sharon Musgrave, head of the library’s Access Services. “They can spend up to 12 hours here, sometimes socializing, but mostly they come here and work well into the night.” Many students suffer severe stress throughout the year and go to the library because they want a quiet place to work, said Susan Korba, a workshop co-ordinator for the Writing Centre.

“Some students who come to see me are absolutely stressed to the point of tears and physically exhausted,” she said. “It’s not necessarily poor time management.” Korba said she thinks all the activities that students get involved in seem to permeate their lives, making everything a blur.

“Students forget that there are boundaries between school, their activities, and time for themselves just to rest.” Students need to remember that Queen’s culture doesn’t have to be about extremes, Korba said.

“It’s a paradoxical mentality,” she said. “On the one hand, Queen’s is a school of scholarly excellence, but on the other, it’s also known for its wild parties. It’s the interconnection between the two that creates this ‘nose to the grindstone’ mindset that cause students to overwork themselves, and in turn, to overindulge in all other areas of their lives.”

In reality, students are bogged down not only by deadline clusters, but also by the various activities that they’re involved in around campus said Rob Beamish, sociology professor.

“University creates the binge culture,” he said. “Queens’s becomes the centre of most students’ lives while they are undergraduates and they play an active role in shaping, leading and taking part in a rich student university culture.” Susan Howieson, Arts ’89, said there’s a binge culture at Queen’s, and has been for years.

“Nothing has really changed,” said Howieson, who joined fellow alumni on Aberdeen Street over Homecoming weekend.

Molle O’Dolan, Arts ’11, said she feels that some first-years take binge culture too far.

“I don’t think we students understand the dangers of our bingeing attitudes,” O’Dolan said.

Health Educator Lee Fischer-Goodchild is in charge of HCDS’s Health Promotions department. The department is in charge of running the Campus Observation Room (COR), located in Victoria Hall. The COR is staffed by student volunteers and staff from Hotel Dieu’s Detox Centre, who watch over inebriated students.

“It’s a very valuable resource,” Fischer-Goodchild said. “It offers students a safe, confidential and non-judgmental place to recover from their alcohol consumption.” The realities of an alcohol binge include sleep deprivation, the quality of sleep in general and impaired concentration, which can last well into the next day, Fischer-Goodchild said. It can negatively affect a person’s mood, physiology, and even hinder social and romantic relationships—and those are only the short-term consequences.

Fischer-Goodchild said she doesn’t think Queen’s in unique in its alcohol consumption.

“Queen’s is no different than any other university,” she said. “Students from all universities, both at a provincial and national level, have very similar experiences.” Fischer-Goodchild cited Queen’s students drive for success as a component in their bingeing culture.

“Students can be overcommitted,” she said. “They feel pressure to get involved because they believe it is essential for their success.” Cenk Aytimu, Sci ’11, said engineering students have a reputation for partying hard that isn’t entirely warranted.

“As engineers, we’re always out there,” he said. “A lot of people think we overdo it, but it’s not true. Our FRECs didn’t force us to drink—it was our choice.” EngSoc President Charlie Scott said he was never pressured to drink during his years at Queen’s—it was just something he was exposed to.

“Engineers are falsely labelled as heavy drinkers on campus,” Scott said. “There is a binge culture that surrounds University students and the engineers are falsely blamed.”

Healthy Resources


Dawn House Women’s Shelter Crisis (24 hours)

Detox Centre (24 hours)
Hotel Dieu Hospital

Kingston Crisis Pregnancy Centre
Free and confidential services for women who are pregnant or worried about being pregnant.
Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
137 Queen St.
Located in St. Paul’s Church
(entrance of Montreal St.)

Sexual Assault Centre Kingston (24 hour support)
toll-free: 1-877-544-6424

Telephone Aid Line Kingston (TALK) distress line
7p.m. to 3 a.m.
Confidential, annonymous service


Health, Counselling, and Disability Services (HCDS)
LaSalle Building, 146 Stuart St.
Appointments: 613-533-2506
Nurse Line: 613-533-6859
Psychiatry: 613-533-2508

*Bring student card and health card to each visit.
Health Services: first floor
Monday to Thursday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Friday 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Counselling Services: second floor
Monday and Tuesday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Thursday and Friday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Disability Services: first floor
Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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