Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Binge Drinking for Charity

I'm catching up on my weekend reading and just got around to this last Sunday's NW editorial denouncing UW-O's Goat Pack Downtown Pub Crawl.

Why wasn't this editorial written during the now annual ClownAttack pub crawl? In the context of the central criticism of the event, i.e. "Don't encourage binge drinking – ever," how are the two different? Both events are essentially excuses for binge drinking under the guise of a charitable event ...

What about the bachelorette parties that rent buses -- on which drinking also occurs -- to move from bar to bar all across town? What about the numerous fund-raising events which count on alcohol sales by attendees thrown by individual charities in town? And tailgating? (The latter two were brought up by a commenter responding to the editorial.)

What about EAA and Country USA?

Let's not pretend for a second that some forms of binge drinking are not only acceptable, but encouraged both here in Oshkosh and in Wisconsin.

I'm not suggesting these kids should be given medal for their entrepreneurial spirit, but let's not ignore the follies of their elders when making such sweeping statements of condemnation.

If the Northwestern, UW-O, the Oshkosh Police Department, the Tavern League, MADD, or any other business or concerned citizen in Oshkosh has a problem with this, there are (at least) two courses of action:

(1.) Piss and Moan. This is what the Northwestern has chosen to do. If you're 21 in Wisconsin you can drink. If you want to organize 600 of your closest friends to come join you for a night out on the town, there's nothing stopping that either. Whining about it six days before it's scheduled to happen will do nothing.


(2.) Work with them. Apparently this is not an option the NW has bothered to consider. If, as the NW claims, that this is merely an excuse for binge drinking (and there's every reason to suggest that it is) wrapped in faux-altruism, then sit down with the organizers and start making this about charity and not about getting boozy.

Here's a suggestion: why doesn't the NW (or anyone else in town for that matter) donate $1000, $2000, $3000, or whatever, to the Pub Crawl. Literally put your money where your goddamn mouth is. Sponsor the event ... but do so under certain conditions. Work with the organizers to make sure that safe transportation is provided, that binging is not encouraged, that food is provided to keep people from drinking on empty stomachs, that sober organizers are around to troubleshoot any unforeseeable issues, that activities are planned at each of the destinations that take the focus off drinking, that work with police to establish a conspicuous presence on the night of the crawl, etc.

In other words: regulate the pub crawl. Don't preach from on high about how what they are doing is irresponsible and blah blah blah. College students don't want to hear it, aren't going to listen, and they have no reason to do either.

Dispense with the ineffectual moralizing, come down from your high horse and show them how to do this responsibly. Don't tell them what to do. Invest some actual time an energy in showing that you care. That's how you can get students to listen to you. Not by writing prissy editorials tut-tutting an activity that is quietly allowable for citizens of the "real world," but not for college students. That's the easy thing to do. Alcohol consumption in Wisconsin is a deathly seriously issue, one that will need hands-on solutions and not just smug, self-satisfying and lazy advice that everyone loves to agree with in public, but knows is more complicated in practice.

MORE: Miles Maguire points to an article in Time that shows how Madison dealt with their once out of control Halloween parties. Well worth noting.

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