“We have not gotten off to a good start. In less than a full week, we have seen far too many of our Wake Forest family dangerously ill from over-consumption of alcohol.”
The Division of Campus Life sent out an email that began with that message to the entire student body on Sept. 1, 2016. The Student Activities Fair, an event during which interested students can peruse the eclectic extracurricular clubs they have available to them, occurred on Sept. 6. As peculiar as it may seem for me to mention those things in conjunction with each other, to me the distance between those two dates is quite significant.
Orientation is a process that stretches across multiple days for Wake Forest freshmen, and frankly, I think many of us found some of the events that were held during it mundane and unnecessary. For many freshmen, orientation will be remembered (and for a few others, will not be remembered) for the nights of successive debauchery that they eagerly indulged in. And thus, we deservedly received the aforementioned email as sort of a punctuation mark to the week of endless drinking. Though the email was certainly well-intentioned, it, along with being ranked as the #14 party school in the country by The Princeton Review, seemed to serve as a badge of pride rather than a justified condemnation.
I’m not writing this as a criticism of Wake Forest’s drinking culture or of fraternity parties in general. In fact, one trend I noticed about pretty much every fraternity I went to in my first semester is that they were very inclusive and many brothers would make a deliberate effort to get to know the new freshmen.
However, it is impossible to deny the sheer dominance that Greek life enjoys over the social scene at Wake Forest, which has caused many new students, some of whom don’t even have an inclination to become severely inebriated, to succumb to binge drinking extremely early and inevitably make foolish and consequential decisions. And honestly, who can blame them?
When a person is alone in a new environment for the first time, a natural reaction is to socialize and encounter new people so that they can feel more comfortable. In addition to a fraternity party giving them the opportunity to do this, it also provides enough free beer to satisfy a dozen rowdy football fans. The problem I see here is not the fraternities themselves, but how early they become conspicuous to new students in comparison to other organizations on campus that may be better suited towards students who would ordinarily abstain from heavy drinking but capitulate under peer pressure.
That is why I think freshmen classes for years to come would benefit from having the Activities Fair be a mandatory event that could be incorporated into orientation. There are many fantastic clubs that simply do not receive the same attention fraternities do that could potentially provide a niche for students looking to participate in student life outside of Greek organizations. I found that niche within Student Government and Dash Corps, but I probably would not have made a commitment to either group had I not decided to attend the Activities Fair myself. I know there are students out there that missed becoming part of a group they really identified with because they didn’t take the time to go to the fair. In my opinion, while making the activities fair mandatory will certainly not eliminate the school’s drinking problem, it may curtail it if students can see that there are other options.