Falling out of windows and motor vehicle crashes are among the leading causes of death for college students. Each year in the United States around 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related injuries each year, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Since the mid-1980s the University of Washington alone has had six students die from drunkenly falling out of windows, according to a 2008 article from the Seattle Times concerning the death of 21-year old student Kevin MacDonald. Five more UW students broke their backs or sustained other serious injuries the same way, and while no one has recently taken a plunge out of a Duvall Hall or Baldwin-Jenkins Hall window, not even the pinecone curtain has prevented Whitworth University students from experiencing some of the effects of college partying.
The Center for College Health and Safety published the results of a nationwide survey on one of its affiliate websites highereducation.org, explaining some of the reasons it found for college students drinking excessively. According to the survey the main reason is that over the years drinking excessively while enrolled in college has become normal, a rite of passage for freshmen and a sort of last hurrah before going off into the real world.
The more excessive drinking becomes a norm around campuses the more people participate and the more out of control it gets, according to the Center for College Health and Safety. Another point the survey made was that large campuses often lack alcohol-free options for students, something that Whitworth excels in.
“Drinking is only prevalent if you want it to be,” freshman Marie Enman said. “You have to go out and find it.”
According to Whitworth’s annual security report, the 2009—2010 year saw 16 on-campus liquor law violations that resulted in disciplinary referrals, commonly known as “The Big Threes” a number that looks relatively tiny compared to the 754 liquor law violations on nearby Gonzaga campus in the same time frame.
So what has made Whitworth different from many other universities around the nation? Possibly the same thing that makes drinking excessively prevalent at other schools: peer pressure.
“Its more underground; people don’t talk about it because they are afraid of being judged,” freshman Kate Hamman said. Judged not by faculty or staff but by their peers, she said.
Freshman T.J.Carver pointed out that many students come to Whitworth for the Christian community and therefore are not interested in partying.
Others don’t make partying as much of a priority, and do drink and attend parties.
Though parties may be underground at Whitworth, students agree that as long as you know who attends parties you can find out what is going on any given weekend. Keeping off-campus weekend activities separate from the week has become standard at Whitworth.
“People go party on the weekends and you don’t talk about it during the week,” sophomore Macy Olivas said.
Some students believe that this lack of communication causes more problems between students than it would if students could be more open.
“I think, like with all things, if you talk about it more then the less problems you have with it,” Hamman said.
Though partying still goes on at Whitworth, it takes place much more frequently off campus than on campus, something that leaves on campus students feeling safer and more comfortable than they would at a larger school where dorm parties are fairly common.
“I have so many friends at other schools that are telling me they can’t sleep and they are kept up by parties next door; I’m only kept up if I want to be kept up,” Enman said.
“It feels more safe and comfortable on campus,” Olivas said, pointing out that she was relieved she hasn’t had to deal with parties or people coming home drunk and making a scene.
Students face other safety issues besides falling out of windows when drinking; 599,000 students are injured each year in other ways when drinking.
Along with that, each year 400,000 students have unprotected sex while intoxicated, according to the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism.
The average college freshman in the United States spends more than 10 hours a week partying, while they spend only eight hours a week studying, according a study by the Center for College Health and Safety. In addition, 25 percent of college students report facing academic problems due to excessive drinking, including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers and receiving lower grades overall, according to the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism
“There are a lot of people who party. You are guaranteed to see people you would never expect,” Olivas said, reinforcing the underground persona partying at Whitworth has taken on.