I stumbled upon Jonah Beleckis’ column “Letter to the editor: UW-Madison’s alcohol culture alienates non-drinkers” last spring while scheduling my posts for the Daily Cardinal’s Twitter account. As a member of the social media team, I would often times simply skim through the articles and quickly move on to create my caption. This article stopped me in my tracks.
“Hello, my name is Jonah.”
Beleckis hooked me from his opening line, pushing me to read further as if the title of the column itself had not already peaked my interest.
As a college student who has never had a sip of alcohol in my life, it is often difficult for me to find voices on campus that see things from the same lense as I do. Because of this, Beleckis’ column really connected with me. His experience as a student at UW-Madison who is a non-drinker is different from my own of course, but I relate to many of the situations that he discusses.
Beleckis recalls times where professors would make jokes about weekend antics, insinuating alcohol consumption, or times where he found himself standing in a packed Camp Randall crowd listening to the chants of “We! Want! More! Beer!” coming from the students around him. These are all common occurrences that most students on campus have experienced and can relate to. Few can attest to being uncomfortable with the casualness in which behavior involving alcohol is tossed around on the UW-Campus. Like Jonah, I know this feeling and relate.
Jonah really made me question UW-Madison’s drinking culture when he told the story of the first party he attended freshman year. He went to a house party where a cup of wop or beer or “whatever” was $5, the usual entrance fee on campus.
“My friend and I weren’t drinking, and after we informed the makeshift bouncer, he scoffed as if his bravado were up to peer review and asked me, ‘Why would you come to a house party and not drink?’ I bit my tongue and paid for an empty cup. We all make sacrifices to be accepted, right?”
Jonah’s final line from this paragraph, “We all make sacrifices to be accepted, right?” really stuck with me. No matter if you are a non-drinker or not, there are times in every person’s life where decisions are made in order to be accepted or fit the norm. He challenges the reader here to relate to his piece, whether they consume alcohol or not, and continue to read on.
To test the reader’s views on UW-Madison’s drinking culture even more, Beleckis provides statistics on binge-drinking specific to UW-Madison from Reonda Washington, the University Health Services Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention Coordinator. One of the most alarming facts from Washington that Beleckis chooses to highlight, is that fifty percent of UW-Madison’s undergrads are considered “high-risk drinkers.”
This sounds fine, until Beleckis informs the reader that other UW-System schools reported 35 percent and that the national average was 36 percent. That puts in perspective how extreme UW-Madison’s drinking culture is compared to other universities.
I wish that he had provided more statistics on students that drink on campus versus those who do not. At the same time, I understand that there is most likely a lack of data on this subject but it would have been interesting to see more data on students that choose not to drink in his article.
Beleckis leaves a lasting impression when he encourages his readers to respect each other’s limits and differences.
“I’ve said no to a drink many more times than I’ve Jumped Around. I believe there are others on this campus who choose to say no, who might even have a harder time saying no.”
Through this column, Beleckis gives a voice to others on campus that are in the same or a similar situation as he is. He reminds those who struggle, or who feel isolated, that they are not alone on campus. Because of this, he makes it a personal and difficult article for one to forget.
Jonah Beleckis’ original article can be found here: http://www.dailycardinal.com/article/2016/04/letter-to-the-editor-uw-madisons-alcohol-culture-alienates-non-drinkers
This blog post was original published on meganottoblog.wordpress.com as an assignment for Journalism 202 at UW-Madison.