The Corner

Penn State & Booze

First, an email from a reader:

Mr Goldberg,

Concerning your comments from Prof. Horowitz, I agree he’s spot on. About 9 months ago I moved to State College, PA, home of the Pennsylvania State University. Penn State, as you may or may not know, was vote #1 party school last year (by whomever makes such declarations). This, in spite of a sturdy tradition of scholarship and academic excellence. I minister within this community, experiencing what the “Townies” (permanent residents of the area, unaffiliated with university), the faculty, and the students all put up with. The area has the second lowest crime rate among MSAs in the U.S. The notable crime we DO have is almost entirely alcohol related: DWI/DUI, public intoxication, disorderly conduct coming from intoxication (i.e., defecating on residents’ lawns), and a tragic death or injury every term. Most recently, a young man later determined to have a BAC somewhere in excess of .2 staggered from the sidewalk into the street, where he was hit by a police cruiser traveling 35 mph. He survived, but imagine telling everyone you were so plastered you walked in front a cop car. In the fall, a drunken pledge fell to his death, from three flights up or so. (In that case, it took a few days to find his body. Posters were up all over town asking for those with information on his whereabouts to call the police.)

It’s all very sad, yet it’s fully integrated with the “college experience” for a significant subset of the student population. The experience isn’t complete without being drunk EVERY weekend. (From memory of the one really drunken experience in my own past, it took 3-4 days before I felt normal again, and that was with no alcohol intake past the bad night itself. So I guess a huge chunk of students are performing well below their abilities at least half the time.)

Indeed, we need to re-think this whole alcohol situation.

Second, this email reminded me to point interested readers to a fantastic episode of the generally excellent “This American Life” radio series. It’s on Penn State and what it means to be “the number one party school” in the country.

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