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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Ethical Partying

Red Solo Cups

Red Solo Cups

It's Lit! But Is It Ethical?

Kelly Shi

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), four out of five college students drink alcohol. Out of those who drink, half partake in binge drinking, and a quarter report negative academic consequences of their drinking. After all, a hangover can make it difficult to do well on exams or attend class at all. But the consequences dont end there. Alcohol-related unintentional injuries happen to approximately 600,000 college students every year, and 1,825 die from those injuries every year. Alcohol consumption has also been linked to sexual assault on college campuses, with 74% of perpetrators and 55% of survivors under the influence of alcohol during the assault. In light of these findings, what should we do to minimize these harmful consequences? How can we, as individuals and as a campus community, create a more ethical party culture?

As an individual, there are steps you can take to ensure your own safety.  If you are a student who drinks, this requires you to watch your alcohol consumption and respect your limits. You might ask a friend to help enforce your drinking limits, especially if you expect to face peer pressure from other partygoers. In turn, you should never pressure another person to consume alcohol (or any other substance). If you see someone who appears to need help, such as medical attention or protection from a potential aggressor, do whatever you can reasonably and safely do to help. Taking ownership of your personal responsibility to yourself and responding to the needs of those around you are two ways to minimize the harmful consequences associated with drinking at college parties.

There are also steps we can take as a campus community to create a more ethical party culture. Some of them are already in effect on many college campuses, such as mandatory education programs on alcohol consumption and sexual assault. But there are also research-supported steps that students themselves can take as a group to enact change from the bottom-up. It has been shown that college parties with more balanced gender ratios, music volumes that allow for conversations, and varied options for socializing present a lower risk for sexual violence. By fully acknowledging and working with rather than against the presence of alcohol and sex, students who host and attend these parties can have fun in a way that is significantly safer for everyone.

Can you think of other things that we can do to minimize the harmful consequences associated with college parties? Are there other factors besides alcohol consumption and sexual assault involved in the ethics of partying? Share your thoughts with us below!

Kelly Shi is the Hackworth Fellow at the
 Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. 

Apr 10, 2016