Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 22, 2024

High levels of stress can lead to binge drinking

By CARISSA ZUKOWSKI | October 23, 2014

Earlier in the semester, University President Ronald J. Daniels released a University-wide statement addressing the issue of binge drinking on campus, specifically in regards to full-time undergraduate students. Johns Hopkins University, along with eight other Maryland universities, participated in the Maryland College Alcohol Survey, which found that out of the 4,200 students who completed the survey, nearly half had taken part in binge drinking. Daniels’s message echoes the University's mission to address this pervasive behavior and improve the health and safety of the Homewood community.

What is the University going to do in light of this hard data? President Daniels, along with Provost Robert Lieberman and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Kevin Shollenberger, made a plan to “develop new approaches to ensuring that responsible practices are in place” regarding this “accepted part of [college] culture.”

As we find ourselves more than a month and a half into the semester, one should ask, “Has this initiative made any difference on campus?” During the first few weeks of classes, there were definitely more Hopkins patrols off-campus, near Guilford and Calvert Streets, cracking down on parties in the neighborhood. While their presence was certainly felt more on the weekends, it didn’t affect the instances of binge drinking or underage drinking. The University accepts that drinking is a part of college culture, and while their efforts to reduce binge drinking and promote healthy lifestyles are admirable, they have yet to prove effective.

While it is harder to prevent a situation that involves the decision of another party, the University has done its part to handle drinking infractions. Before Fall Break, there was a student brought to Union Memorial Hospital by her friends because she had blacked out from drinking too much at a party. Days later this student received an email from the University requesting that she make an appointment to meet with a council in light of her visit to the hospital. To her surprise, the meeting was not a reprimanding lecture, but rather a dialogue between herself and the council. They sent her on her way without punishment, asking only that she be a bit smarter next time she drank.

The school genuinely wanted to help the student and ensure that she practices safe drinking habits. While this is a great step toward creating a safer campus, it is a bit disheartening that it took a statewide survey to open the discussion between the University’s administration and its students. The school addresses the binge drinking on campus but still has yet to acknowledge its root cause.

“Study hard, party hard” is a saying that many use to describe the culture on campus. Students are stressed and anxious about the expectations of their professors and their peers, leading them to drink in excess to escape from their stressful roles as the responsible, involved and smart students they are. This is a generalization and does not apply to all, but it is not a correlation that should be overlooked. Hopkins is a top-tier college and certainly holds high standards for its students. But at times, these standards can feel too high. We are given a very short Fall Break — if you can even call it that — of one Friday in the midst of midterm month. This is not enough time for most out-of-state students to visit home, and it is barely enough time for anyone to catch their breath or catch up on work. Sometimes it feels as if a professor’s syllabus is more important than the mental health their students.

Perhaps the school should not have partaken in a survey pertaining to alcohol abuse but rather in one regarding the mental health of students. Anxiety and depression are only amplified from the stressful environment of a rigorous university. If Hopkins truly is dedicated to bettering the lives of its students and improving the health of the Homewood campus, hopefully they will implement the same initiative toward alleviating the sense of overwhelming stress on campus.

Carissa Zukowski is a sophomore Applied Math and History of Art double major from Baltimore.

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