I have noticed something really disconcerting at Wake Forest. Something that has been under-acknowledged with potentially deadly consequences.
I have visited my fair share of “social events” on and off Wake Forest’s campus. In addition, through various friends, I have attended parties at other North Carolina schools like UNC Chapel Hill and Appalachian State. Wake Forest’s party scene is unlike anything I have ever seen before at any other school. Our fellow students are not happy party-goers who relish putting on a fun outfit and dancing the night away with their friends. Our fellow students are not getting bubbly with one another after a few drinks and making life-long college memories. No, our peers are drinking to forget.
I have seen a frightening trend grow before my very eyes. More and more students are having all-night benders, ending up at the hospital and developing incredibly dangerous and unsustainable habits with their alcohol consumption. Habits that, when developed in this incredibly impressionable time, can remain with someone for years and years.
However, the root of the problem is just as distressing. Why are students so unhappy, so anxious, that they must sacrifice their bodies in one weekend to have fun. Why are Wake Forest students so depressed during the school week that they must play a dangerous game of catch-up on the weekends?
This is an incredibly difficult question to answer because it encompasses so many facets of college life. Social pressure, experimentation, academic stress, separation anxiety and relationships — all these factors mix together to create a variable “perfect storm” in the lives of college students, a storm that while difficult to quell, is not impossible.
Part of this lies in the academic climate of the school. Students here are used to being high achievers and are typically intrinsically motivated to do their best. That pressure is doubled down upon by their professors and administrators. This is not to say that Wake Forest is causing teens to become alcoholics due to its high institutional expectations, but it does show a blind spot that school leaders are not considering. Students here are nervous, anxious wrecks that are turning to more and more dire ways of handling themselves.
Wake Forest has taken a smart first step by instituting the Medical Amnesty program, but there’s more work to be done. We should be teaching students about the psychological impacts of college life and how that interacts with an alcohol-ridden social scene that is so typical of Universities.
Elimination of Greek Life or any other knee-jerk reaction will be a frustrating and ineffective band-aid for this problem. Instead, Wake Forest needs to see what the long term effects of these kinds of behaviors have on the human mind-in addition to the body.
I love Wake Forest, and I want it to prosper. But a serious problem is not being addressed by school administration, and time may be running out.