Alcohol: Not everyone’s favorite guest.
Welcome Week and student alcohol culture
By Andrew Andrews
EIC’s Note: This article mentions a UR Pride event and the writer is an employee of UR Pride. We thought this perspective was important none the less, so here it is.
The start of the school year also signals the beginning of one of the university’s largest events: Welcome Week. There are plenty of opportunities for new and returning students to make friends, attend cool events and, of course, drink alcohol. Although there are other alternatives, the biggest push to generate interest seems to revolve around events that involve drinking.
And why not? For many people, the culture that combines college and partying is strong. However, not everyone is comfortable around alcohol. And for those people, there are fewer social engagements that they can access.
There are a lot of reasons why someone may choose not to drink, including cultural, religious, familial, or personal values. Someone may have had a negative experience in the past. A student might need to get up early the next morning for a test. Or, someone may just not want to drink as a personal preference.
Providing a space where students can meet other people without the push to drink is something that’s quite necessary. Substance abuse is far above the national average here in Saskatchewan, as are our cases of impaired driving. In 2017, our province was the leader in impaired driving cases. Yet alcohol is celebrated as a widely available drug, often not included in the talk of substance abuse at all.
It’s time to recognize that not everyone is comfortable around alcohol, and not everyone drinks. There needs to be more emphasis on the fact that alcohol is not the only thing that makes an event worth attending.
For those that choose to not be around alcohol, the experience can be isolating. The vast majority of events on campus come with the expectation of alcohol being available, particularly during Welcome Week.
One of the alternatives that students can access is UR Pride’s TGIF (Thank Gay It’s Friday) program. It runs every Friday from 7 -10 P.M., and focuses on providing a sober environment that has a semi-structured activity. Some cool things we’ve done in the past have included movie nights and dance parties. Anyone is welcome to participate even though it focuses around the 2SLGBTQIAP+ community and allies. Even if someone simply wants to be present at the space and not participate, they’re more than welcome to do that too.
Unfortunately, the queer and trans communities also have their own strong culture of substance use, which is why this program is designed to fill the gap in substance-free events. Besides the gay bar [EIC’s note: The Q], many members of the queer community in Regina don’t have another option at all.
Hopefully, more opportunities for those seeking an alcohol-free choice will continue to pop up, and we continue to destigmatize the choice of not drinking.