The Realities of Drinking at USF

Editor’s Note: In the last issue of the Foghorn, we ran a story about drinking in San Francisco entitled “Thirst-Quenching, Gut-Wrenching, Head-Spinning SF Bar Scene.” We have recognized that publishing that piece without a disclaimer about the dangers of underage drinking was not a good idea. We do not regret publishing the article because it was not a shallow story that glamorized drinking, but a well-written narrative that tackled a number of stereotypes surrounding drinking. However, we do recognize that as a student paper we have young readers who may be vulnerable to the dangers of drinking irresponsibly, which is why Peter Novak, the Provost of Student Life, kindly agreed to contribute this letter about the realities of drinking on USF campus. 

Dear Editor,

Stephanie Casey’s article in the scene section of the most recent Foghorn is a creative and well-written critique of the various bars around San Francisco that attract college students. Not surprisingly, USF students have fake IDs, and often drink to excess. What has alarmed us in Student Life the most is that we have responded in these first few weeks of the term to a disproportionately high number of hospital transports due to alcohol poisoning. Most concerning is a trend that has developed of late, where students are left alone, unconscious, and clearly sick, in bathrooms, stairwells, street corners, and other locations on and off campus. Abandoned by friends, these students are most acutely at risk for serious health conditions and even death. 

When the author writes about “liquid courage” and suggests, even tongue-in-cheek, that “this is your chance to shamelessly consume your own weight in overpriced alcoholic beverages until you deem every face in the club attractive,” I question the valorization of drinking culture and its relationship to sex, sexual assault, and violence. Almost 10% of this year’s freshman class report that they have blacked out (lost memory) from drinking within the last 30 days. And 10% of men in the entering class still believe that the way a woman dresses indicates her willingness to engage in sexual activity.

We clearly have more work to do in creating a culture of respect where students take care of each other and intervene when friends are in unsafe situations. It is not easy, and I’d like to ask the Foghorn to be a partner in that conversation as we continue to address the serious issues of substance abuse and sexual assault on campus, and wherever our students find themselves in the City and beyond. See for more information.

peter novak (1)
Peter Novak
Vice Provost of Student Life


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