Every year college students show up to new places and begin the best four, but often times more, years of their life.  There is no longer mom and dad to watch over any of the new students.  There is FROG week; full of excitement, making new friends, learning campus, and conveniently no classes.  This week is where everyone learns where the good parties are, where they want to party and if they want to rush a frat or sorority.  JMU does not avoid the issue of underage drinking, nor should it.  The university addresses this issue through its RA’s, FROGs and hall directors.  It is clear that under no circumstances will underage alcohol possession or consumption be tolerated.  There are even consequences for being in the presence of alcohol consumption.  In light of these facts, all JMU students should abide by the law and not consume alcohol, especially in the dorms where there is high risk of being caught.

These preventative measures have not gone far enough to curb alcohol use by incoming students.  According to the Harvard School of Public Health Alcohol Study (CAS), 67% of college freshmen across America report having consumed alcohol within the past 30 days, 45% reported binge drinking within the past two weeks, and 33% reported that their alcohol consumption had increased within the past year.  There are other factors that influence one’s risk of consuming alcohol illegally, such as participating in varsity athletics or Greek life.  Greeks have the highest levels of alcohol consumption, at 86% in the past 30 days, followed by athletes, at 78% in the past 30 days.  Freshmen who began drinking before the age of 16 were three times as likely to be binge drinkers are freshmen.

Drinking inherently is not a bad thing, engaging in low risk social drinking can be extremely beneficial to young students who are trying to find their own niche in their new surroundings.  The effects of low risk drinking will reduce inhibitions that many young adults feel when thrust into a new social atmosphere, where they may not have grown up with everyone around them as they did in their high school years.  Finding a new circle of friends quickly and developing a routine for their life is extremely important, doing this quickly is extremely important and will lead to a more enjoyable transition to college life.  James Madison is a leader in assisting students make the transition to their new responsibilities with FROG week and 1787 Orientation.

Evan with the ample assistance given by the university, the majority of the responsibility of drinking safely falls upon the student doing the drinking, and those with whom they are drinking.  There are many ways to engage in safe drinking habits, including counting the number of drinks with tallies on your arm, alternating water and alcoholic drinks, making mixed drinks with only one shot of liquor in it.  Regardless of what strategy one chooses to employ, be aware of how intoxicated you and your friends are; take care of your friends if they become too inebriated, and do not ever just leave your friend at a party regardless of how sober or drunk they are. Using the buddy system is the safest way to avoid trouble when out enjoying the famous nightlife that JMU offers.  There can be serious repercussions when consuming alcohol, especially underage.   The Harrisonburg police officers patrol Port Republic looking for any reason to stop college students who are walking home, not causing any trouble, but are drunk.  Arresting is a larges source of income for the city, which profits through the fines that need to be paid, the lawyers who are hired to defend the students, and by the community service that is preformed by the students.

Drinking at JMU can seem as much a part of college as classes, but it does not have to be.  Going out does not imply drinking and separating the two can be extremely helpful for students who struggle with hangovers the next day, drinking too much that night, spending all of your money on 3am Jimmy Johns, or any other alcohol related problem.  It is possible to go to a party and not drink anything at all, it may seem awkward at first, solely due to expectations of consuming alcohol in a setting with dimmed lights and loud music.  Going out is not all about drinking, and it should not be, moreover it should be about seeing friends in a non-school setting and meeting new people, not about drinking until you have to ask everyone else what happened to you last night. Whatever your personal choice is, you possess the tool set to overcome the pressures of your peers to drink excessively and to enjoy your college years without having to spend the night in the drunk tank. Always remember it’s your choice to drink and it’s your pace to drink at not someone else’s. Hydrate or hangover: you decide.

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