Sometimes, nothing can lighten up a conversation more than good, frank talk about sex and relationships. As a student at Yale University, Natalie Krinsky started writing Ã¢â‚¬Å“Sex and the (Elm) CityÃ¢â‚¬Â as a favor to a friend. The column ran in the school paper and sparked an Ivy League Revolution. Suddenly, some of her columns were getting 400,000 hits, and responses from all over the world. With topics ranging from oral sex to the perfect first date, KrinskyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s columns gave readers a whole new look at what it meant to live, as she puts it, Ã¢â‚¬Å“beyond the ivy covered walls.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Now, with her first book, Chloe Does Yale, a novel about (surprise!) a Yale University sex columnist and her exploits, hitting the shelves, Krinsky has taken her adventures to New York City, and to a regular blogging gig at the Village Voice. She sat down with WireTap to talk about her column, whether Ã¢â‚¬Å“smart is sexy,Ã¢â‚¬Â and why all the campus sex columnists are women.
WireTap: When did you start writing the column? How did you get the book deal?
Natalie Krinsky: I began writing my column at the beginning of my sophomore year at Yale. When it started gaining popularity beyond just Yale and I had readers at many other colleges around the country, I began thinking about writing a book. This was at the beginning of my junior year. At that time I was also getting a lot of press from national publications (Chronicle of Higher Education, The New York Times, etc.) which was encouraging as well. I was also taking a journalism class with Steve Brill (of BrillÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Content, Court TV fame etc). An author of many books, I approached him and asked if he had any advice for an aspiring author who was looking for a literary agent. He introduced me to my current agent. From there, I went on to write a book proposal, which was sold the spring of my junior year.
WT: How much is actually based on fact? What are you doing now?
NK: The book is based on my experiences as sex columnist at a prestigious Ivy League university -- sort of the insiderÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s view on college. Some of the stories in the book are true. Most of them are made up based on things that went on at Yale. I would say that the book is 70 percent fiction, 30 percent fact -- let the reader decide what is what!
WT: How has the book (and the column, for that matter) changed your life?
NK: I actually began writing the column as a favor to a friend who was an editor at the Yale Daily News at the time. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s interesting that such a small Ã¢â‚¬Å“flukeÃ¢â‚¬Â led to all this. The column and the book have done a great deal for my life. I decided to really pursue writing once the column gained popularity. So, in essence, the column decided my career path. I think the biggest difference in my life is, in some capacity, becoming someone in the public eye. Having something like a book, which is so Ã¢â‚¬Å“out there,Ã¢â‚¬Â leaves you open to both the compliments and criticisms of a large number of people. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s definitely a big adjustment, but an interesting one, to make.
WT: What have been some of the most surprising/interesting responses you've gotten to the column and the book?
NK: I think that some of the most surprising things are the stories that you hear from people as a result of writing about sex. People are much more open to sharing personal information about themselves, or seeking advice about things. Sometimes the Ã¢â‚¬Å“adviceÃ¢â‚¬Â aspect can be difficult -- I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t always know the answers. The majority of feedback pertaining to both the book and the column has been positive, but like anything else, there will always be people who feel the opposite way. I try not to take any of it too personally, though it can be hard at times.
WT: Why do you think "Ivy League sex" is getting so much press? You've mentioned in your other interviews that a lot of people seem to be intrigued that your articles are coming out of Yale. Is smart sexy? Do you think people are surprised "academics" are having sex, or do you think their perceptions of the Ivys are wrong?
NK: I think Ivy League sex has become such a hot commodity, in part because many of the [student] sex columns that are out there now began at prestigious or Ivy League institutions. My column at Yale was among the first two or three of its type. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s almost as if weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve Ã¢â‚¬Å“askedÃ¢â‚¬Â for the attention. At the same time, people do have stereotypes or perceptions about what happens Ã¢â‚¬Å“beyond the ivy covered wallsÃ¢â‚¬Â of Harvard or Yale or Princeton, and when those perceptions are contradicted I think that excites and fascinates them. I think a lot of these institutions also seems Ã¢â‚¬Å“mysteriousÃ¢â‚¬Â or Ã¢â‚¬Å“untouchableÃ¢â‚¬Â and some of the sexy stuff weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re writing about is at once scandalous and relatable.
I also definitely think smart is sexy ... as long as itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s packaged along with other goods ... .
WT: In your book, drinking is often tied to sexuality or sexual experiences. Oftentimes, Chloe starts regretting these hook-ups even during the act. Can you comment on the prevalence of alcohol-fueled hookups on college campuses? Why did you think it was important to include this element in your book?
NK: In college a lot of sexual encounters are fueled by alcohol. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s definitely a culture of drinking in college, period. Most social scenarios involve alcohol and in turn lead to hookups. I think this element was important to include in the book because itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s true -- itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s out there and whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going on.
WT: Do you consider yourself a feminist? Do you think your book is feminist? Some critics have called it "post-feminist," and have said that the women in the book are weak, inactive, or overly emotional. What's your take?
NK: I completely disagree that the women in my book are weak, inactive, or overly emotional. They are 19-and 20-years-old and trying to figure out who they are and what they want out of relationships and what they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want. When dealing with the situations they find themselves in, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not a bad thing to get emotional -- Chloe [the bookÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s main character] does sometimes become angry or upset or sad because of the relationships in her life, but as a contrast, Lisa, another central character, can be more blasÃƒÂ©, whereas Bonnie [another central character] for example, ends up in a very mature relationship with a guy who, initially, is quite the opposite. The characters represent a wide spectrum of maturity and emotions and I think thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a realistic portrayal.
I think the column and subsequently the book has made me much more of a Ã¢â‚¬Å“feministÃ¢â‚¬Â than I was before. Today, if you are a woman and you are a sex writer people assume certain things about you and might label you Ã¢â‚¬Å“promiscuous,Ã¢â‚¬Â etc. I think IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve become more adamant about how expressive women can be when it comes to sex, how overtly sexual they can be -- I think that if a woman wrote Dan SavageÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s column, for the Village Voice, which is great but very risquÃƒÂ© and out there, she would get a lot more flack for it. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s disappointing to me.
WT: You know, you're a sex columnist, which is a pretty public exploration of your private life. And yet, you get your message across, both in the column and in interviews, without divulging much of your true personality or real life. Do you think it's important to keep your public and private lives separate?
NK: I think that putting out a representation of who you are in columns and in a book is enough. Doing that alone prompts a free-for-all about what people think about you, which is fine, but I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need people making judgments, positive or negative, about my own love life, my family etc. Those are things that I want to deal with on my own, especially [while] IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m trying to figure a lot of it out for myself.
WT: How can a young writer take their experiences and run with them? How can they make their writing and their experiences a career?
NK: In some ways my situation is pretty unique. I was writing about provocative things at a time when this was relatively new. But, I think that writing for a campus newspaper or magazine can certainly be a good way to break into a career in writing. I also think the thing to keep in mind is that in some cases Ã¢â‚¬Å“youthÃ¢â‚¬Â can be a writerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s greatest asset. A young, fresh perspective will always be valuable.
With the recent school shootings in Minnesota, the omnipresent news stories about alleged teenage delinquency, and the various popular TV shows about independent upper class youth run amuck, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no wonder our culture is obsessed with asking: Ã¢â‚¬Å“whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wrong with these kids?Ã¢â‚¬Â
The newest round of commentary comes from noted youth and crime expert Elliott Currie. His new book, The Road to Whatever makes an attempt to address what Salon magazine calls, Ã¢â‚¬Å“the epidemic of checked-out, drug-taking middle-class teens.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Currie built the book around a number of interviews with youth, both in the throws of addiction and in recovery. He chose to write about teens whom had a pre-existing rapport with, and you can tell he spoke to them each several times, at different stages in their addiction/recovery cycles. Through this process, Currie eventually arrives at what he believes to be the real crux of the issue Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Ã¢â‚¬Å“carelessness,Ã¢â‚¬Â or the idea that, for many troubled teens, Ã¢â‚¬Å“you really, truly donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t care what happens to you Ã¢â‚¬â€œ you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t care whether you live or die. You donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t care what happens to anybody else, either.Ã¢â‚¬Â
CurrieÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s believes that our society is gradually hardening. This means more parents are throwing their teenagers out when they misbehave, while teachers often turn blind eye to the real problems. Abandoned by parents, youth like those Currie spoke to end up isolated and nihilistic.
Ultimately, Currie argues that the disappearance of pro-social government and cultural programs benefiting troubled youth, and a general societal Ã¢â‚¬Å“sink or swimÃ¢â‚¬Â mentality toward kids is the problem. As the author puts it, these teens are the victims of Ã¢â‚¬Å“a world of narrow, self-serving individualism in which real support from ... adults is rare and punishment and self-righteous exclusion are routine.Ã¢â‚¬Â He adds, Ã¢â‚¬Å“it is a world that places high expectations for performance on adolescents but does remarkably little to help them do well.Ã¢â‚¬Â
CurrieÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s found that when troubled teens do seek help, theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re often simply given medication Ã¢â‚¬â€œ rather than encouraged to speak and to talk about their problems. One of the subjects interviewed described visiting a psychiatrist a mere three times before being handed a prescription. She says,
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The first time I went in there, I said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m depressed, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d like to take some pills.Ã¢â‚¬Â He just asks me about my symptoms. He goes, Ã¢â‚¬Å“OK, so youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re depressed. All right, do you feel this?Ã¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“No.Ã¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“Do you need to sleep?Ã¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“Yeah.Ã¢â‚¬Â So he gave me some sleeping pills and some Prozac. Boom, that was it.Rarely, Currie illustrates, do teens get the support they need to keep from abusing the prescriptions. The young woman above adds, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The sleeping pills were a bad idea, because I ended up taking a lot of those.Ã¢â‚¬Â
CurrieÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sources also describe feeling ignored and underestimated at school. One student, Zach, talked about going from being an Ã¢â‚¬Å“AÃ¢â‚¬Â student, to eventually drop out. He says,
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I used to win championships and shit like that all. It was cool. Doing all that shit with science fairs. Whatever, you know what IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m saying? Ã¢â‚¬Â¦Schools became boring to me. They couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t teach me nothing new ... And then I just started doing drugs ... then I just couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t keep up Ã¢â‚¬Ëœcause it wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t no point [sic] to do homework if you was never in class.Ã¢â‚¬ÂWhen Zach was in class, his teachers were often consciously aware of the problem. Instead of addressing it, he says they would tell him, Ã¢â‚¬Å“put your head down and go to sleep.Ã¢â‚¬Â Most of the students interviewed described similar experiences. More often than not, they were shuttled off to alternative schools (where their problems often continued) or expelled. In some cases the teens dropped out on their own. Ignored by a system that favor more Ã¢â‚¬Å“promisingÃ¢â‚¬Â students, they decided to ignore the system right back.
A point the author alludes to, but doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t address, is why these teens are really considered failures to their middle-class communities. He doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get into the fact that, in a community concerned with money and Ã¢â‚¬Å“making it,Ã¢â‚¬Â they are failures because theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re Ã¢â‚¬Å“slumming it.Ã¢â‚¬Â One of CurrieÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s interviewees aptly refers to her problems as a Ã¢â‚¬Å“white kind of messing up.Ã¢â‚¬Â ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s possible that the teens he spoke to are often seen Ã¢â‚¬Å“failuresÃ¢â‚¬Â because they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have the drive to stay in the middle-class world. In their inability to Ã¢â‚¬Å“recognizeÃ¢â‚¬Â all their parents have done for them, there may be more going on. Instead of recognizing what are often cries for attention and recognition from their parents, most adults in their lives will only distance themselves further.
The Road to Whatever does get at the fact that middle-class, Ã¢â‚¬Å“normalÃ¢â‚¬Â Americans are no less free of dysfunctional family dynamics than your average working-class and poor communities. Another of CurrieÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sources, for example, faces emotional abuse from her mother, an alcoholic father, a sexually-abusive step-father, and eventual abandonment.
Though CurrieÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s perspective is often spot-on, he often fails to draw a connection to larger social issues. Not until the very last page of the book does he acknowledge that the problems these students face might not be problems for youth alone. He writes that the harsh and irresponsible culture oppressing these teens Ã¢â‚¬Å“doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t come from nowhere ... it is influenced by real-world conditions and especially the eroding social supports and constricting opportunities that are now so much a part of ordinary life for Americans, including, increasingly, those relatively high on the social ladder.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He argues that not much can be done for these troubled teens unless our culture, as a whole, changes. Parents will only really have the capacity to be there for their teenagers, he writes, when, Ã¢â‚¬Å“we begin to change the broader rules of the game.Ã¢â‚¬Â He advocates for a return to decent and inclusive policies for families, schools, and workplaces.
In other words, how do parents, working insane hours to earn the car, the plasma screen TV, the high-speed internet suddenly overcome their consumerist mentality and take responsibility? How do over-worked teachers take on even more? In short, how do we turn the Ã¢â‚¬Å“me generationÃ¢â‚¬Â into the Ã¢â‚¬Å“we generationÃ¢â‚¬Â? While CurrieÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s book is a good starting point, he might leave his readers with far more questions than answers.
A recent study from the American Journal of Public Health announced that The Truth, the ultra-hip, not-afraid-to-use-body-bags-in-its-ads anti-tobacco campaign is actually working. Ironically, though, just as it looks like this data has been crunched, the funding behind it might disappear.
Between 1997 and 2002, the percentage of teens who smoke dropped from 28 to 18. The study credits The Truth with about 22 percent of the drop, or about 300,000 teens. The study claims that teen smoking was falling before the ad campaign, but that the rate at which it decreased was noticeably steeper after the ads began.
So, great -- the ads are working! Kids are getting wise and smoking less. Maybe it's not just The Truth it could be state sponsored anti-smoking programs, stricter rules on underage cigarette purchasing, fewer places with smoking sections, or any number of other non-smoking friendly rulings since 2000. If the ads are working, though, they should definitely continue, right?
Well, here's the catch. The Truth campaign was funded by part of the $206 billion settlement between big tobacco companies and 46 states in 1998. The settlement was meant to try and recover some of the billions of tax dollars spent on public health care for all the sick smokers, as well as various smoking cessation programs and future concerns.
Some of that settlement money went to the American Legacy Foundation, the parent company for The Truth. They spent about $59 million last year and gave another $38 million in grants. They expected the money to keep coming in as the tobacco companies continue to pay off their debt to the states.
Unfortunately for anti-tobacco activists, though, the settlement had a safety clause in it for the tobacco companies -- they were allowed to stop paying after five years if they could prove they were losing customers.
So, if the campaigns work, or people actually wise up and realize you can get sick and even die from smoking, then inevitably fewer people are going to be lighting up. But when that happens, the tobacco companies lose customers and this means their executives can just close up their wallets and head on back to their factories and board rooms. Where's the logic there?
Perhaps the problem with The Truth is that they actually thought about their campaign. Their ads weren't talking down to teens, or scaring the crap out of them, a la the latest anti-drug ads. They were culture jamming. They were staging die-ins at company headquarters and inspiring kids to talk to each other about what actually goes on in the business and marketing worlds. They were using marketing to break through the tobacco companies' marketing.
I remember about 5 years ago, I got a static-free bag full of Truth swag at Scribble Jam in Cincinnati, a big underground hip-hop event. It was full of anti-smoking stencils to use at your discretion on whatever billboard or wall you felt inclined to decorate, a camouflage bandanna, and various other stuff. It was swanky and original, and it felt underground, just like the hip hop. It was right near the beginning of the campaign, and it felt like they were just trying to create a street name, to make people wonder what "The Truth" was, where all the tags had come from. Just like Shepard Fairey's "Obey" caught on, The Truth was based on street-cred.
Well, I'm not sure the tags and bandannas campaign caught on, but their groundbreaking anti-commercials and minimalist ads in magazines worked. Their web site gets over 250,000 unique visitors a month. They run an informal street team, telling potential members they can be a part of a "roots revolution," that they can "be among the first generation to refuse to be snowed under by the tobacco industry."
Just as The Truth campaign has inspired teens to reach out and start their own anti-tobacco programs in their states, it turns out their funding is in danger too. Massachusetts and Florida, states with programs once considered cutting-edge models for the rest of the United States, have cut their budgets dramatically in the past couple of years. The governor of Mississippi wants to take the $20 million set aside for their anti-smoking program and put it toward the state Medicaid program.
While tobacco companies like Philip Morris run their own anti-smoking campaigns, they're also spending $12.5 billion a year on cigarette advertisements and promotions. Meanwhile, they've spent just $600 million on their anti-smoking campaigns and youth development grants since 1998, with markedly less influence than The Truth.
For more information, check out TobaccoFreeKids.org
Gone are the iconic old greasy poker players green visors, cigars and all. Now, poker is glamorous. Heck its televised, and even celebrities like Ben Affleck, Tony Hawk and Angela Bassett arent ashamed to say they play it. Poker is hot, and teenagers are flocking to it with open arms.
ESPN started televising the World Series of Poker a little over a year ago, and since then, poker popularitys taken off like gangbusters. The Travel Channel, Bravo and Fox SportsNet have also taken to televising poker tournaments.
The young players on the televised tournaments are one reason the sports really taking off with teens and young people. Whether its The Crew, a group of 20-somethings headed up by phenom Dutch Boyd, who earned a law degree at age 18, or Phil Ivey, a 27-year-old whos been playing poker professionally for 10 years, there are plenty of young success stories to latch on to.
Emily Biondo, a senior in high school from Maryland, says that while she started playing poker with her family when she was in sixth grade, she didnt come out of the poker closet until last year, when poker became mainstream in her school. She estimates that about 90 percent of her school knows how to play poker, just from watching the shows. And, she said, about 60 percent play regularly,
Studies in the United States and Canada have indicated that about 80 percent of teenagers have reported gambling in the past year. While sports gambling used to be the most popular way to take a risk, in the past year, all that attention has switched to poker.
While many teens might not bet any money and play just to have something to do in the suburbs with their friends on a Friday night, others lay down around $20 a game. One teen told WireTap that their friend cashed their entire paycheck each week, around $200, and used it to play poker until the next check came in. The phenomenon has even sparked an urban legend in the Philadelphia area about a freshman who was so indebted to upperclassmen because of poker that he sold his laptop.
While most players are just into the game for some fun with their friends or family, some parents are having a hard time teaching their kids the value of money when millions of dollars might be won or lost on an average televised event. One parent asked ABC News, How can I teach [my son] to earn his allowance of $10 per week when he sees people betting tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars?
The idea that poker, or gambling in general, is a "get rich quick" game might truly be a myth, according to Jackie Lapin, media relations coordinator for the World Poker Tour. One lesson to be learned in poker is hard work, she said. The guys at the top of this game work very hard. They read all the books and study the opposition. They are always, always learning. The people that we deal with are people who have done well, and its because theyre very serious students. Its like anything else. If you work hard and practice long enough, you will get better.
With so many young people spending time on the Internet in their free time, it makes sense that online poker is especially popular. Many sites offer players free credits to play against people all over the world. The last two World Series of Poker winners have qualified online. In fact, most big poker events like the World Series have seen dramatic increase in numbers of players who have qualified online, sometimes for no money at all. Because some players buy their way into the big events for fees of up to $10,000, this is an appealing option, especially for new players.
Vikrant Bhargava, general manager of partypoker.com, one of the Internets most popular and well advertised poker sites, says that online poker has grown almost 15 times bigger in the past 18 months. At any given time, partypoker.com hosts about 65,000 players simultaneously. The market has just exploded with people becoming less shy about playing poker with others outside of their close friends circle, Bhargava says.
Ideally, youth and teens getting into poker only play for fun, or they understand the value of hard work and skill in the game. Some parents see poker as something better for their kids to get into than drugs or alcohol. The World Poker Tour hopes that its younger fans will play the games with their families as a bonding activity and will be launching a family-oriented page on their Web site (www.worldpokertour.com) within a month.
At the same time, though, poker is gambling, and with gambling comes the lurking sense of possible addiction or compulsion problems. Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), says that he believes that while the number of teens legitimately gambling might not go up, the fact that people are gambling earlier and more intensely might increase severity of gambling problems, getting teens into more trouble, quicker.
One reason poker is so appealing is the get rich quick idea. While the chance of making millions of dollars from surprise poker skills is there, its not really possible for most people. That doesnt mean, though, that millions of people dont play poker or the lottery with the idea in their heads. Alcoholics dont believe the next drink is going to make them rich and famous, but gamblers do, says Whyte.
Compulsive or problem gambling is defined by the NCPG as, all gambling behavior patterns that compromise, disrupt or damage personal, family or vocational pursuits. The essential features are increasing preoccupation with gambling, a need to bet more money more frequently, restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop, "chasing" losses, and loss of control manifested by continuation of the gambling behavior in spite of mounting, serious, negative consequences. Whyte says that gambling becomes compulsive because of sheer human nature. We tend to remember our wins and forget about our losses, says Whyte. Gambling encourages persistence, to keep playing to win back the money youve lost.
Oftentimes, a compulsive or problem gambler doesnt recognize their problem until theyre deep in debt. Thats another thing that makes gambling different than other addictions like drugs or alcohol there are no outward signs. Someone can hide that theyre gambling on credit, but its often hard to hide a substance abuse problem. We dont have any natural defenses for gambling addiction, says Whyte. If you drink too much, you pass out. If you take too many drugs you OD, but there is not enough money in the world to satisfy a problem gambler.
It is possible to gamble safely, though. The NCPG recommends knowing the warning signs of problem gambling. If gambling becomes the only thing in your life, says Whyte, if you need to bet increasing amounts to achieve the same excitement, and if you lose control, youve got a problem. To make sure your poker game doesnt get out of control, set a limit and stick to it. Dont gamble when youre drunk, high or stressed, and dont gamble alone.
If youre gambling online, as many youth do, it might be harder to keep track of your money or debts. Its also easier to fall into the trap of gambling on credit, which is a problem that can escalate quickly. Some poker sites have checks in place, though, to make sure someones gambling doesnt get out of hand. Partypoker.com, for example, takes special care to ensure that their site stays out of bounds for minors. They check with verification companies to cross check the information cited on the online registration forms, including the date of birth. They require people to sign, electronically, that they are over 18, though thats not infallible. We make it clear, says Bhargava, that winnings will not be paid out without verification, to discourage minors from trying to bet and win.
Partypoker.com also has strict deposit limits for players, keeping people on budgets. Bhargava says, the lifetime limit is less than what many people lose in a land-based casino in one session. If a player loses a lot of money without having high roller status as a well-versed player on the site, they can have their account blocked.
Whether poker is just a passing fad, or a trend here to stay, its best to take the advice of actor/singer Kenny Rogers -youve got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, know when to run.
– Jenna Bush, from the Bush twins recent RNC speech
Jamie got in trouble for public intoxication during her first weekend at Ohio University (OU). As a consequence she was required to take an online class called AlcoholEdu. She describes the class as a long online video, with a quiz at the end and says she didnt take notes. I think I was drinking during the class, she says. I failed the first time, and had to pay to take it again.
If the Princeton Reviews list of Top Party Schools is accurate, Jamie is a typical OU student. Earlier this year, when the list was released and OU appeared in the No. 5 slot, this small, Midwestern town went into a state of panic. Administrators denounced the list as the product of faulty surveys and the students either toasted to the decision or began worrying about the validity of their degrees. Meanwhile city officials tried to devise yet another way to deal with their towns reputation as a Mecca for the overly tipsy. Whether or not OU makes the list next year or not, many of its party-going students would agree, it is the perfect example of an American Party School.
This fall, in an effort to curb underage drinking, as well as change their reputation, OU is requiring all its incoming freshmen to take the AlcoholEdu class. Of course, the difference between taking the class and absorbing the information, might be an important one. As Jamie says, the second time I took notes, but all I remember is that you can still be drunk when you wake up in the morning.
The Princeton Reviews list, which they have published since 1992, usually includes a number of large state schools and was topped this year by State University of New York at Albany. Other notorious regulars include the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Georgia.
The Princeton Review (no relation to Princeton University) conducts the annual "Best 357 Colleges" survey and uses responses from more than 110,000 students at campuses around the country. The data is then used to rank schools according to eight categories, including academics, demographics, administration, and politics, in addition to the party school list.
According to their website, the Reviews selection of party schools is based on a combination of survey questions concerning use of alcohol and drugs, hours of study each day, and the popularity of the Greek system. Survey results come from student volunteers nationwide. Students who choose to fill out the survey in the first place may tend to be less academic minded. But, there is likely an element of truth in the survey, as well. If students feel so intensely driven to put their school on the top of the list, they have to be pretty determined partiers.
Robert Franek, lead author for the survey, believes that the Party School list is just one of the many ways his surveys help schools see themselves through the eyes of their students. He told the Associated Press that he thinks the list accurately reflects college life – for better or worse – and can be a vehicle for change.
In 2002, the American Medical Association called for an end to the Princeton Review top party schools list, saying that it is misleading, and gives college-bound students a skewed perception about partying on campus. The director of the AMAs Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, Dr. Richard Yost, said that Princeton Review should be ashamed to publish something for students and parents that fuels the false notion that alcohol is central to the college experience. Of course, the Princeton Reviews list isnt the only source of this myth think, for example, of the heavily publicized annual Spring Break debauchery or Animal House and, well, every other Hollywood film about college, for that matter.
Indeed, the Party School list can be seen as just another product of a culture that sends its young people extremely mixed messages about alcohol. Most freshmen are away from home for the first time and therefore susceptible to targeted ads like the one for Natural Light, a college-friendly beer whose ads urge young consumers to get nattified.
Tactics like requiring student to take an online class may have little effect when looked at in the context schools that actively endorses fraternities and sororities, institutions that have long been known for their alcohol-focused culture. OU has 17 traditional fraternities, and 9 sororities. While the Universitys fraternity and sorority handbook maintains that the Greek community is expected to promote the whole person by promoting effective leadership, responsible decision-making, and consideration of others rights, its a commonly known fact that going Greek not only means having built in friends, but also built in parties, especially during Rush and Greek Weeks.
While the Bush twins joke on national television about getting arrested for underage drinking, many college administrators tend to warn against the likelihood of being taken seriously as an employee after youve attended a party school.
OUs new president, Roderick McDavis told a local newspaper, If I were a student at OU today, I would be concerned about being a party school, because when employers look at hiring you or the person sitting next to you, its one more obstacle to overcome.
The universitys web site prominently notes that it is ranked among the top 50 national public universities, as well as the top 100 national universities in the 2005 U.S. News & World Reports Americas Best Colleges edition. Meanwhile, OU professors relay stories of top companies which have stopped recruiting there because their recruits couldnt be bothered to show up at work on Fridays.
Kristina Maurer, a senior, said she didnt really know about OUs reputation as a party school until shed already made the decision to attend. I remember how some of my teachers would encourage us to look elsewhere instead of a school like OU or Ohio State University, she said. Once I declared I was going to OU, all of these adults would immediately say, ooh, a party school and smirk. Still, she believes shes getting a quality education, saying she knows know of many people who have gotten great, stable jobs because of the fact that they graduated from OU.
Mostly college town
There are around 20,000 students attending OU - well more than half of the citys population. The U.S. Census lists the Athens populations median age at 21.5 a national anomaly. Students outnumber actual citizens by so much that it creates interesting challenges for both city and university officials. Add to that the fact that there are 19 bars within three blocks of the towns main drag, and an annual rite of passage night known as a Court Street Shuffle, in which students attempt drinking at all of them, and you have the makings of an explosive party situation.
Of course, there are ramifications. In 2002, OU had 9 assaults, 28 rapes and 14 incidents of what the school calls forcible fondling. And these were just the reported crimes. It has been said that one in four sexual assaults is reported, and alcohol is almost always a factor, especially when they occur between acquaintances. There were also over 600 liquor law arrests among the student population in 2002. The University gives grants to student and university organizations that promote alcohol-free events on Friday and Saturday nights, but its easy to guess that keg stands and beer bongs have a much stronger appeal. One local bar, for instance, offers something called the Aquarium, which is an enormous draft beer served in a chalice-like glass. Similarly, houses on popular student streets are peppered with bar banners advertising alcohol. One houses banner claims they drink only Bacardi. Students tan in their yard during the week with signs like you honk we drink.
Freshman Eric Gorscak said that while the party school ranking or reputation didnt influence his decision to attend OU, it seems like an added perk. Its a nice little bonus. Ive been known to be a partier, and from what Ive seen so far, there are definitely a lot of parties here. Gorsack might be referring to the Halloween and student housing block parties, as well as the planned riot that happens each year during springs Daylight Savings time change when the bars close an hour early, among others.
College is commonly seen as a road to job opportunities but for many young people it is also time to take risks, engage socially and learn through experimentation. When the majority of the student body are middle- to upper-class, as they are at OU, reckless consumption of the legal drug may be seen as a safe way to mess up. Students here usually have more than enough money to finance their nightly partying, or the bail they might have to pay if things go too far.
And learning? What about that outdated aspect of university life? Most OU students arrange their schedules so they dont have class on Fridays, meaning the weekend starts for most of the students by Thursday night. Recently, when the OU administration voiced a plan to switch from the academic quarter system to a more universally accepted semester system, meaning of more Friday classes, the students were up in arms. And while the administration is still debating the switch, some students have insisted that if faced with Friday classes, they could simply not be bothered to attend.