A week into the new semester, as students hit the bars as well as the books, it’s clear how tough it could be to change a social culture critics say is built around booze.
First, came articles on drinking in the campus newspaper that administrators found too glib. Then, there was a flap over coupon books given to students as they bought textbooks that included ads for alcohol specials and bail bondsmen. That was followed by national publicity about the university making another list of top party schools.
UGA has been trying to turn around its image for some time. I vaguely recall an embarrassing lawsuit brought by a student some years back over lack of academic rigor in a class that was designed for student athletes. I can’t find a reference to it online, but that’s probably because I can’t recall her name. UGA gradually increased SAT scores required for incoming freshman in an effort to attract the best and brightest. It still hasn’t successfully shed its image as a party school. The Princeton Review voted it the 12th biggest party school — 10th in hard liquor consumption and 8th in a list where “students (almost) never study.”
I remember well what it was like to go to school on the beer-drenched campus of UGA. I never have been a big drinker, and I admit to finding the alcohol culture at UGA distressing. In my Music Appreciation class, the classmate who sat next to me showed up to a morning class still drunk from the night before. He smelled absolutely awful — like a mixture of hard liquor and vomit. He was so drunk I was afraid he was going to vomit right there in the classroom or perhaps even pass out.
I lived in Reed Hall, right next to Sanford Stadium. On game days, it was awful. Folks tailgated all over the campus. After the game, the alley between Reed and the stadium was littered with the beer cups. It was an appalling lack of respect for the students who lived there, in my opinion. I don’t know why folks couldn’t be troubled to throw away their cups. The alley smelled of beer for what seemed like days afterward.
UGA is trying to curb tailgating, and I hope they are successful, but if I know UGA alumni, I imagine they’re raising hell about new restrictions on when and where they can tailgate.
In days past, the joke was that if you slowed down as you drove through Athens, they threw a diploma in your car. Nowadays, UGA must be proud of its growing reputation as a research university and Public Ivy, and I think they are taking steps to put the their party image behind them:
- Asking the media to stop calling the Georgia-Florida football game as “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party”
- Tightened policies on game-day tailgating, including setting up family-friendly alcohol-free areas
- Approved an online alcohol awareness course
- Announced that parents will be notified of students’ drinking violations
- Begun assigning first-time violators of drinking laws to an alcohol awareness class and placing them on probation
- Announced that violators already on probation will be suspended
- Started sending violators to the county jail for booking and requiring them to post bond before being released
- Held a town hall meeting with football coach Mark Richt
- Announced plans for a new center for alcohol awareness and education
I do hope that UGA can fix their image. Overall, I enjoyed my experiences there, but I will admit that the drinking culture really did curtail my appreciation for the school at times.