“I’m goin’ down to Rhino’s, how ’bout you?”Oh man! I would totally come, but I lost my fake.”Don’t worry, I know the bouncer, he’s chill.” Thus begins the familiar humdrum of conversation at the start of a weekend in Georgetown, and no doubt most other campuses across the nation.

Occasionally, opinion pieces filter through the worried scrutiny of editors, condemning or defending the culture of alcohol consumption by students. Passionate responses fly back and forth, with drinkers criticizing their square and sober classmates, and non-drinkers sanctimoniously defending the purity of their lifestyles and leading the offensive against the callous “alcoholism” of their friends. Whatever you believe, the topic is one that elicits the liveliest of conversations and it is for this reason that I find it of particular interest.

Being raised in a household in which alcohol was never seen and rarely mentioned, I have always had trouble understanding the place drinking holds in American culture. Upon reaching the “appropriate” age, defined, of course, by your particular school and the students there, it is expected that you will begin your experimentation with alcohol and other substances.

One by one, jocks, nerds, artsy-fartsies and the rest of the milieu would “discover” the enjoyment possible by way of alcohol. Students who had once vehemently disparaged drinking acquiesce to the unwritten edicts of society, ostensibly of their own interest and not due to the unspoken pressure of their peers. D.A.R.E. and other programs naïvely put forth by educators to prevent underage drinking so often refer to “peer pressure” that the concept has become laughable. But what does it really mean?

Commercials on the subject are generally so melodramatic, they might as well depict innocent children being attacked by stylish upperclassmen bearing vodka and popularity. In reality, it is far more concealed, yet a force so powerful that few are able to resist its subconscious assaults. It is the idea that making friends will be easier while inebriated. It is why students really feel as if they ought to test their “tolerance” before they enter college. It is the implicit understanding that drinking wine with meals is a sign of culture and social sophistication.

A discussion on alcohol consumption at Georgetown University would not be complete without at least a mention of the proposed keg ban in September 2006. Whatever my personal views are on the issue, I don’t wish to criticize the energy students displayed in fighting the ban. In fact, it was commendable. Students believed in a cause, and they rallied in its support. Their efforts were successful, arguably exemplifying democracy and activism at their best.

However, without passing any specific judgment on alcohol or the policy in particular, I wish to pose a question: Why is it so difficult to harness a similar excitement when it comes to other issues? Why was this issue so important to students? Was it because it affected their social lives, their livelihoods, their downtime? Or is it simply that the issue affected them directly and immediately, unlike the perception of issues like genocide? If it were possible to harness a similar zeal in formulating a comprehensive response to these questions, then imagine what this campus and this world could be like.

Work hard, play hard: The motto is oft-repeated by students defending or criticizing the nature of drinking at academic institutions like Georgetown. Whatever your personal views on drinking, I hope that those views are based on your own personal reasoning and values. While it may be naïve to believe it is possible to strictly maintain your own beliefs without the influence of society, this is one subject where it is worth holding your own.

Though positive peer pressure has also become cliché, I am hopeful that such a concept could be used by students to encourage their peers to act. For a university with a free speech zone known as Red Square, it would be a shame if the only cause that drew widespread student attention and support was the Great Keg Ban of 2006.

Aakib Khaled is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. He can be reached at khaledthehoya.com. CURA PERSONALIS appears every other Friday.

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