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The other minority

Observer Viewpoint | Thursday, February 19, 2004

Every day the Viewpoint articles seem to be about how someone on campus is offended and underrepresented. Here is a little about the most underrepresented group on campus – an “alternate lifestyle” group that ought to be offended. Although a larger group than any racial minority, no popular presidential candidate ever adopts a plank in their favor, no Notre Dame media writes about them and no one seems to acknowledge their existence.

They are a minority of a different kind – a minority by choice, no doubt. In fact, they are an interesting bunch because they have the ability to disappear on weekends, or so it seems to those who are a part of the “popular” social scene. You guessed it – I am talking about the alcohol-free student.

The first question you must be thinking is, “Why?” Undoubtedly there are many reasons a person may choose not to drink. I could fill the rest of this column with reasons why I do not. Instead, I will summarize some of them in one paragraph.

Have you ever eaten at a homeless shelter? Talk to the people there. See what they tell you. Have you ever read the Bible or even read about the philosophy of Socrates? Examine what they say about drunkenness – stating that it is frowned upon is a gross understatement. Have you ever considered what drinking says about yourself? I will tell you – it says that you are not good enough as you are, so take this substance to change you – to make you do things that, if you were thinking straight, you would never be doing. And where does the fun part come in between the getting fat, puking, poor decision making and increased chance of physical or sexual assault? I tend to think I can have a much better time while sober. And, personally, I realize that once I decide to do something, I do it all-out and never halfway, so I would be especially at risk if I started. Perhaps others use rationale similar to mine.

Now, if you were not convinced before you read that, I will bet my No. 1 dime that you still are not. My goal is not to change you – it is to demonstrate from where nondrinkers may be coming. With that in mind, consider this issue from my viewpoint.

This school encourages drinking, while doing little to offer opportunities for those who wish to abstain from it. As a university supposedly adamant in its Christian fervor, I think this is a bold statement, yet true.

Even regarding the transportation of alcohol, du Lac says, “Students must ensure that the containers are closed and in suitable packaging such that the contents of the package are not readily identifiable as alcoholic beverages.” In other words, “Go ahead and bring beer in, but please do not hurt the school’s precious image by showing that side to any chance visitors.” In addition, do not forget Frosh-O, which in men’s halls, anyway, mainly consists of upperclassmen telling the new students how to avoid getting in trouble when they drink. Lastly, even the gym and Huddle close earlier on weekends – heck, what are kids doing here? Go out and drink off your week.

Want further proof? Eighty-five percent of students here are reported as drinkers as compared to only 80 percent of students nationally. In addition, 27 percent of last year’s freshmen were nondrinkers as compared to only 12 percent of the entire student body. Students are subtly pressured and, by and large, they give in over time.

The students themselves are more ridiculous than the administration. I am convinced that the average student spends 50 hours a week studying and none thinking. Students cheered when smoking was banned from buildings, and many now support banning it at entrance ways, and perhaps entirely from campus. Nevertheless, when it comes to alcohol – which is at least as large an annoyance to the innocent – drunken students do not hesitate to fill dorm hallways, puke in the sinks or invade rooms. You call yourselves my Notre Dame family, but I can tell you this – no one in my family has ever acted like that.

So what is my point? To students who drink, stop acting like non-drinkers have some sort of social defect. To students who have chosen not to drink, be proud and unafraid to let people know that yours is the high ground, and it shows character and integrity.

As for the administration, I have a special request. Please consider bringing Notre Dame’s dorm system up to date with the rest of the country. Of course, I do not mean with respect to parietals, but rather by giving housing options to those who do not want to drink. Nearly every major school in the nation offers students the option of signing up for a designated substance-free hall or floor – or at least asks questions about it when assigning freshmen roommates. This place currently does nothing and ignores the problem. The two new residence halls proposed in the master plan offer the perfect opportunity, and randomly selected dry hallways would be sufficient until then.

Although I expect to hear quite a bit of negative responses about this article, both in the newspaper and personally, realize that my requests do not in any way prevent current drinkers from continuing, so calm down. As for fellow nondrinkers, I would love to receive letters of support and to hear your thoughts because, contrary to popular belief, we do not hang out with each other in the library every Saturday night.

Ryan Iafigliola is a freshman engineering major. He can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.