It’s important to be prepared for the classroom and the situations and scenarios you may encounter, but it’s also important to be prepared for campus life. There are situations and scenarios you should be prepared to encounter there as well.
For starters, there are terms you need to know as a freshman on campus. One of the most important ones may be Thirsty Thursday. Every weekend is a three-day weekend when you’re at college. For many, the parties begin Thursday nights. For others, that’s pure procrastination.
Dehydration appears to be a rampant health problem with college students, hence the need to drink. And drink. And drink. And drink. I’m not talking about social drinking, having a glass of wine with dinner when you’re 21. I’m not even talking about the “hey, look at me I’m so cool—I’m underage, standing by a big kegger and tossing back a beer.” The drinking scene has changed in recent years. It’s hardened. This isn’t about under-age drinkers tying one on once in a while, or once a month, but drinking continuously. Hard on the weekend, and off and on, mostly on, during the week. It’s called binge drinking and college presidents agree it is the most serious problem on campus.1
A Harvard study found that 44% of U.S. college students engage in binge drinking. For females, binge drinking is described as four or more drinks in a row. For males, binge drinking is described as drinking five or more drinks in a row. Forty percent of college women are binge drinkers and 51 percent of the men are binge drinkers. Binge drinkers are typical white, age 23 or younger, and residents of a fraternity or sorority.2 If you binge in high school, you’re likely to binge in college. Finally, the study found binge drinkers binge three or more times in a two-week period.
Actually, the risks associated with alcohol abuse have been documented and are rather wide-ranging. A study by Bell and Howell Information and Leaning found:
- Binging and intoxication decrease GPA directly and indirectly by reducing study hours.
- College drinking increases the probability of choosing a business major, but decreases the probability of choosing engineering.
- The effects of heavy drinking on GPA and major choice reduce future weekly earnings by between 0.3 and 9.8%.3
On paper, statistics are cold, hard, boring numbers, but when you go to college and the statistics have faces, it’s another matter. The hurt brought about by alcohol abuse can be fleeting and temporary (a hangover), or long lasting and deadly.
The statistics became personal and heart wrenching at Ball State University. A 21-year-old student named Michael S. McKinney, had been out drinking when he decided to return to the house he was staying at around 3:30 a.m. Disoriented and intoxicated, McKinney went to the wrong house and began pounding on the back door. The homeowner, panicked and frightened, called police and reported that someone was trying to break into her house.
A Ball State University police officer, 24 and fairly new on the job, arrived on the scene and repeatedly yelled at the young man to “Stop! Get down!” Neighbors were watching from their windows as the homeowner had called them to alert them to the situation. They watched as the officer yelled. They watched as McKinney lunged at the officer and the officer fired his gun four times killing the student.
Tragic. Absolutely tragic. In a split second lives changed forever. Grief sent shock waves in a thousand different directions. It took investigators weeks to sort out the facts of the Ball State tragedy, but one fact that was clear from the beginning: When you engage in activities that dull your senses and numb your brain, you put yourself at risk.
Greek to Me
True to the stereotype, Greek houses are often the hot spots for drinking and accompanying rowdiness. I went to a frat party the first week of college to see what it was like. My friends and I walked all throughout the house, in part because we got turned around. (I can’t imagine trying to find my way out if I were drunk.) Everyone was drinking. In the basement there was laughter and cheering as the guys were playing a chugging drinking game. There was dancing and smoking in other parts of the house, but for the most part, the entire party consisted of boozing, boozing, and more boozing. It was dull, so we decided to leave. I was surprised how boring the party actually was, plus the majority of them probably ended up puking that night, followed by a hangover the next morning and no memory of what they did. And this is fun? A lot of what passes for fun is due to boredom. Mix that with a lot of affluence and shortage of imagination and you have party after party, the same ol’, same ol’.
Of course, it would be grossly unfair to paint every fraternity member with the same brush. Not every member is a hard-drinking party animal. A friend I met at a Student Leadership Forum on Faith and Values, lives in a fraternity and does not fit the stereotype at all. He doesn’t drink, and he doesn’t party. He hopes by being a member of a fraternity that he’ll have an influence and make a difference. He wishes that more Christians would join fraternities to help broaden their influence. When the frat house has party nights he goes up to his room and shuts the door or leaves. Of course, he still has clean up duty the next day. Obviously he doesn’t have much of a direct influence on party nights, but maybe on other days of the week he’s building relationships with guys in his house, hoping they can see a difference in him and his actions.
He’s deliberately put himself in a difficult position. The first time he slips up in anything—and anybody who is human slips up at something—he comes under a critical gaze. Because he’s chosen to be different, people are continually watching him and, in many cases, waiting for him to blow it.
Sadly, a number of students who engage in under-age drinking and excessive drinking are professing Christians. There is a major disconnect in the minds of many Christians today. They’ve bought into the cliché that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. It’s all about rationalizing. Drink yourself under the table on Friday and Saturday, ask for forgiveness at church on Sunday. That’s what Dietrich Bonheoffer called cheap grace.
If we profess the faith, we need to live it with our lives, our words, our actions and our attitudes. There has to be a connection between what we believe and how we live.
There are things to do and ways to have fun that don’t require alcohol. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to plug into a small group that shared my ideas. We don’t drink ourselves into oblivion or go to frat parties. We don’t even bum around and watch movies much. We check out what’s going on in the city and often leave campus on Friday and Saturday nights.
Big cities have a lot to offer in regards to restaurants, shows, malls, and museums. Sometimes we get dressed up and go to a restaurant, go ice skating, go to the art museum, or take a walk downtown. Pedal boating downtown on the canal and watching movies outside on the wall of the art museum are specialties we enjoy. Other times we do a drive-and-search for a new hang out, or pick a hole-in-the-wall to frequent for a while. We ride bikes, go on picnics, and have served dinner at the city mission. We go to the grocery and make dinner together, connect with families who live near campus, and have even gone home for the weekend to hang with one another’s families. We read books, discuss them, and when we’re feeling extremely strange have been known to play a card game in a foreign language. There are all kinds of ways to let down and even be crazy, ways that don’t involve drinking until you puke.
A significant number of students, Christians and non-Christians are pulling away from the booze model of college life. It’s actually part of an emerging trend.
The recent Harvard University School of Public Health College Alcohol Study that surveyed students at 119 colleges noted a trend toward polarization of students since 1993. Students are either abstaining completely from alcohol or frequently binge drinking. Each category increased by about one-fifth, with abstainers increasing from 16.4 percent to 19.3 percent (and frequent binge drinkers increasing from 19.7 to 22.8 percent of the college population).
For every group of frequent binge drinkers, remember somewhere on campus there are an equal number of students who aren’t tipping back at all. The challenge is to find them.
At the beginning of the year, students often introduce themselves and identify themselves as a partier or a non-partier. They’ll tell you straight out.
“What do you like to do? On the weekend?”
The answer is usually either, “I like to party,” or a brief hesitation and “I’m not really into the parties.” Speak up. Don’t hesitate to identify yourself as someone who can have fun without a bottle in each hand. Be bold right away, because the first of the year is when everyone is making connections. Sometimes finding this group is slow going. Sometimes it’s so slow going, it’s downright depressing. You wonder if you’ll ever connect. Don’t give up. Keep looking.
Look at who’s walking through the dorm hall on a Friday or Saturday night. The fact that they aren’t at a frat party is an indicator they may be someone who knows how to have a good time without getting drunk or hooking up.
The non-partiers are on campus. They’re there in growing numbers. There are people with imagination and creativity, students who don’t blindly follow the keg, waiting to have fun, too. You just have to look. Looking shouldn’t be too hard. Since you haven’t been drinking, your vision won’t be blurred.
The Rest of the Party
Drinking and keggers are one half of the party scene. The other half is the sex. Everybody knows pre-marital sex is part of college life, but what you might not know is just how open people are about it. Or how raunchy, or tawdry, or how proud they are of it.
A marker board on the door of a room in my hall summed up the attitude of many college students very nicely: “All I want to do is get drunk and get laid.” Other marker boards resounded the same theme using even more vulgarities and coarse language.
A guy friend in my hall said he wanted me to meet his girlfriend when she came for the weekend. We had developed a friendship, so I knew he could handle straight talk. I asked him where she would be staying. He said she would stay in his room. I said, “Oh, well she’s more than welcome to stay in my room; I can sleep in a sleeping bag and she can have my bed.” He just smiled. So did I.
When his girlfriend came to visit, the message on his marker board, said, “Knock first.” I guess the girlfriend, still a senior in high school, didn’t want to stay in my room. She preferred sleeping in a top bunk with her boyfriend and sharing a bathroom with four guys, three of whom she’d never met before. Having someone of the opposite sex share your bed, and even having sex with them, while your roommate is in the room does not even raise an eyebrow anymore.
By the end of the weekend, my friend’s roommate was ready to see the girl go. He complained that she took too long in the bathroom. But he was also irritated because she kept walking around in her underwear.
You have to wonder where the sense of privacy, or even embarrassment went. And to think that back in grade school we wore shorts under our dresses on the playground to protect our privacy during recess. Something’s wrong when an 8-year-old has a more finely tuned sense of modesty than an 18-year-old.
The pressure to look skanky and act sleazy at college is intense. Even the girls that don’t sleep around try to keep up appearances that hint that they are at least amenable to the idea. Today there’s little a female can-do, or wear, on campus that will shock anyone. As a matter of fact, it is as if a girl can damage her reputation if someone thinks she actually has standards, morals, and convictions.
Truthfully, it’s not hard to figure out why even good girls want to look bad. Good girls want to look bad because girls who dress modestly are overlooked. Most guys don’t pay attention to modestly clothed girls, at least not when there is another girl 10 feet away wearing low-cut pants and a low-cut shirt and has cleavage on display. Here’s a hard truth females have to learn to live with if you go to college and maintain any standard of modesty and purity: When you dress modestly you become nearly invisible.
I told that to a woman in her 40s, and she said, “Those type guys aren’t worth having. They grow up to be men who pick up trophy wives the minute their own wives start to wrinkle or sag. You don’t want that kind of guy now, and you won’t want him later. Wait for a guy who appreciates a gal who’s modest.”
Nearly all forms of modesty have virtually disappeared. My parents were dropping me off on campus after the Thanksgiving break. They pulled over on the main drag that rings the campus where a number of other kids were being shuttled back to campus, duffle bags and laptops all deposited curbside.
A couple was walking down the sidewalk toward the line of cars pulled over dropping off students. The guy had his arm around the girls shoulder, they were smiling and talking. All of a sudden he dropped his hand down and grabbed her breast. Is she going to smack him? Will she stop in her tracks, shocked? Will she turn the other direction and leave him in her dust? No. She grabbed him in a rather sensitive place. They continue walking a few steps with good grips on parts of one another that were once considered extremely private.
The concept of shame has been so perverted that possessing a sense of shame is now something for which a young woman is made to feel ashamed. This is well illustrated by a column that appeared in the campus newspaper. The piece addresses the “Walk of Shame,” that lengthy trek a disheveled girl makes as she walks back to her dorm after a one-night stand at a frat house or boy’s dorm. It is not uncommon to see a girl on a walk of shame early Saturday or Sunday mornings. Many times these girls are wearing someone else’s clothes, looking tired, and even embarrassed as they quickly walk back to their own room.
The walk is usually made with head down and a posture of shame. No more. She’s been set free according to this writer, a business major who wrote the following for the student newspaper.
Walk of Shame
Wake up early on any Friday, Saturday or Sunday morning here . . . and you are likely to see an indicator of the wildness of the night before. If you’re lucky, a look out the window or a short drive down Hampton will reveal one embarrassed, exhausted girl who was the company of one lucky guy the night before. She’s on her way home. She’s hoping that everyone will still be asleep and that she’ll make it to her destination unnoticed. We have labeled this stroll, “The Walk of Shame.”
If it were up to me, people wouldn’t look at this little girl (wearing baggy clothes that obviously don’t belong to her) with such disgrace.
Everyone is aware of the circumstances and we all know the situation. Perhaps you’ve been in this girl’s sneakers and you know precisely how she feels. Anyway, it’s quite clear that if you are up and at ‘em at this hour, early enough to catch this young lady on her stroll, it means she had a much better time than you did last night. You were in your room studying for a test or writing a paper while she was living it up like any normal, fun-loving, beer-drinking college student would do. After all, that’s why we came to college, isn’t it?
So, I propose a change in thinking . . . I suggest that this walk not be judged or teased in any way. Instead, go back home and look in the mirror and cry, because you are wasting the most fun time of your life.
The cute little girl should be commended for her party personality and you are the one that should be scolded.
Congratulations, you’re a nerd.4
Twice the student columnist referenced this type of female in the Walk of Shame as a “little girl.” I wonder if the writer refers to himself and his guy friends as “little boys?” His tone reveals his lack of respect for a young woman’s modesty, privacy, and dignity. If the Walk of Shame is as commonplace as the writer suggests it is, doesn’t he for a moment wonder exactly what is it that makes these young ladies feel embarrassed and empty deep down inside?
Most girls who have been in that position, no matter what they may say or the bravado they may muster, still feel dirty and used deep down. I’ve talked to some of the girls. There is often an emptiness and a longing inside. So, they move to the next one and the next one and the next one, hoping to find the connection that truly connects.
A must read for any young woman heading to college is Wendy Shalit’s book, A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue. Shalit offers a deeper understanding of modesty. She traces the link between the lack of modesty and immorality. She also offers strong documentation on the ugly fallout of immodesty and immorality—eating disorders, emotional problems, the traumatic fallout that follows abortions, lack of self-confidence, anxiety, and depression. Shalit builds a case that modesty is actually a form of power. Modesty is a powerful form of control that females have at their disposal. Yet, so many females yield that power so easily and with so little thought.
Shalit’s book was written while she, too, was at college, so her experience is fresh and her insights unique. She concludes her in-depth analysis of modesty and immodesty with an interesting thought: “Modesty is proof that morality is sexy. It may even be the proof of God, because it means that we have been designed in such a way that when we humans act like animals, without any restraint and without any rules, we just don’t have as much fun”5
Shalit cites a Jewish proverb: “Ein b’not yisrael hefker.” Translation: The daughters of Israel are not for public use. When you look around most college campuses today, it would appear that the daughters of America are for public use. It would appear they are available for public use by both the way they dress and by the way they behave.
Pia Nordlinger, writing for The Women’s Quarterly, published by the Independent Women’s Forum, says college these days is all about “hooking up.” The “relationship” usually ends when the girl tiptoes out the door the next morning.
Nordlinger writes, “When it comes to sex, a young man entering college today has it made: He won’t have to shell out for flowers, a pricey dinner or a sappy chick flick. He won’t even have to call her the next day. Guess who won the Sexual Revolution?
“Although girls defend the practice of hooking up, they sense that they are getting shortchanged. They know that the status quo—going to bars, drinking too much, and following a guy home to bed—is somehow detrimental. The problem for them is that they are both unwilling and unable to articulate why.”6
In 1997, a Details Magazine “Sex on Campus” survey revealed that almost one-third of college women had “sex with someone they didn’t even like.” Why? “It just happened,” was the common response.
The message on campus is that if you’re not hooking up and sleeping around, you’re a boring prude. When I’m surrounded by that mindset, there are times when I start to wonder if I’m missing out on something. But deep down I know I’m not missing out; I’m waiting for something more—more intimacy, more commitment, more permanence.
Sex, in the bounds of marriage, is best because that is how God intended it. The oneness in marriage comes from an intimacy built upon vulnerability. This vulnerability is fragile, and it needs to be protected. That’s why it’s self-destructive to go around exposing our hearts and emotions at random. Vulnerability is not cheap, or easy to come by, like the free key chains and frisbees they give away under the welcome tent the first week of school. Sex is the ultimate expression of vulnerability.
Marriage is worth waiting for, and the reasons are many.
Adults who engaged in sex outside marriage express less sexual satisfaction than do married couples.
Married people express greater physical pleasure and emotional satisfaction from sex than do unmarried people.
People who live together or were unmarried and having sex are more likely than married men and women to say that sex made them feel anxious, worried, afraid, or guilty.
At the Campus Crusade meeting the week before spring break, the guys and gals were split up into separate groups. The message was “don’t have sex during spring break.” It was an attempt to combat all the material that had been floating around for the previous two weeks. Different campus-sponsored organizations had passed out flyers on how to party responsibly, which means “use a condom.” Then spring break goodie bags were passed out which contained condoms.
It’s commendable that Campus Crusade attempted to present the opposing view, but much of the message passed overhead. It’s not enough to say “don’t have sex” (although it probably should be—God makes it pretty simple). It seems we need to explain why. Students, yes, Christian students, need to understand that God’s rules have an individual’s best interest at heart. Every Christian student needs to know why he or she shouldn’t have sex before marriage. If you don’t know why before you come to campus, you’re sure not going to learn why once you’re here. It’s an understanding you better bring with you when you come.
Joshua Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, says “Physical intimacy is much more than two bodies colliding. God designed our sexuality as a physical expression of the oneness of marriage. God guards it carefully and places many stipulations on it because He considers it extremely precious. A man and woman who commit their lives to each other in marriage gain the right to express themselves sexually to each other. A husband and wife may enjoy each other’s bodies because they in essence belong to each other. But if you’re not married to someone, you have no claim on that person’s body, no right to sexual intimacy.”7
Sex is so casual on campuses today that it is often compared to having all the significance of scratching someone’s back. Believe me there’s a whole lot of scratching going on today.
If you live out your Christian convictions, there will be times when you feel like you’re the only one not “scratching.” At those times, I remind myself that I know the kind of life I want and I’ve made a commitment to make it happen. With God’s grace I can reach that goal. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” God does not want us to conform to the promiscuity around us. We are to stand apart from the crowd. Contentment in choosing abstinence comes from the understanding that you are not missing out by not sleeping around, but rather you will experience more fulfilling sex in marriage, sexuality the way it was intended.
Sadly, many of those who sleep around often wake up to the reality that they are hurting themselves emotionally, physically, and spiritually and setting themselves up for a life of pain and regret. Harris says, “God’s love for the impure does not cease, but their ability to enjoy this love does.” If you’ve already been caught up in the crowd, if you’ve made mistakes, or if this is a new and appealing concept to you, it is never too late to change. There is absolutely nothing too big for God to forgive. God’s power can work in you to transform your mind, body, and soul. The Christian life is about new beginnings and fresh starts; so why wait?
If you love me
There’s an incredible disconnect among Christian students on secular campuses today. You see certain students at Campus Crusade meetings on a weekday night, and then you see the same students talking about getting drunk on the weekend. It’s far more offensive and hypocritical for someone who claims to be Christian to be engaged in such behavior than for someone who never claims to be a Christian in the first place. It’s an easy slide down—the pressure is tremendous—but it’s a slide Christians are not to make. John 14:15 says “If you love me you will obey what I command.”
To party or not to party
Some students say they’re comfortable at parties where there is under-age drinking. That may be so, but remember this: under-age drinking is illegal. More and more campuses are enforcing the law and meting out penalties.
Need a ride?
On a secular campus, you’re bound to have friends who drink and drink to get drunk. Let them know it’s not your thing, but also let them know if they’re ever in a jam and need help getting home, they can give you a call.
Play it straight
Try not to be too repulsed by what you see around you. Work at keeping a poker face. You never know when there may be an opportunity to reach someone.
Be there for the breakdown
As a Christian you can’t condone sleeping around, but you don’t have to be condescending to others either. Just be there. Be there for them when they hurt. Be a friend. Listen, comfort, and when the time is right, point them in a different direction. Point them in the direction that says self-control is a good thing. Point them in the direction that say human beings are too vulnerable and complex to engage in sex on such a casual basis. Point them in the direction that says the Creator has mandated that sex is to be reserved for a most holy and intimate union.
There will be times when you feel like you’re the only one not hooking up on campus. You’re not the only one not doing it, and not everybody is doing it. But what if that was the case? So what? Would it matter? God calls us to do the difficult.
Pornography is nearly inescapable on a college campus—especially for guys. It’s a big past time in the dorms and in the frat houses. Statistics say that now more females are viewing porn for entertainment as well. Even if you don’t view, it’s bound to come up in conversation. It can be a great opportunity for discussion. You can simply say, “I’m not into that,” or you can use it as a door into a deeper discussion. “I’m not into that, I think it’s disrespectful to women and men and trivializes sexuality.”
You’ve Got Mail!
As a freshman I found myself in a whirlwind of drinking, partying, stealing, sex, and everything in between, and this after having been on staff with my youth group not a week earlier. To make matters even worse was the fact that I was on a water polo team that was highly regarded on the Division I level and automatic friends with teammates that were older than me and far less moral.
The bottom line is this . . . I went on to be an All-American in my sport, as well as an academic All-American, all while harboring alcoholism and depression. After almost swindling my God-given talent on every enticement of the world, I cried out to God and He answered me. I took a year off and allowed God to build in me a firm foundation that could weather the storms that are now being thrown at me. After a year of Discipleship Training School, missions, and running youth camps, I moved back to school a week ago to see the same deceptions you are warning incoming freshmen of.
God has already been able to use me in incredible ways, plus He has given me the opportunity to play water polo again. God has put it into my heart to reach out to the troubled and lost of our generation and show them that there is hope and freedom in the Lord—apart from the accepted norm of drugs, sex, and violence.
Having taught at two public universities and two public community colleges, including currently teaching full-time at a public community college, I can completely identify with Abby Nye’s thesis in her excellent book, Fish Out of Water. She is exactly correct in her contention that our nation’s public colleges are indoctrinating students into moral relativism. Although critical thinking is given much lip service by professors, she rightly points out in this book that “groupthink” is actually what is being encouraged and that the highest virtue is “tolerance”—of anything except conservative Christianity, which is viewed as being intolerant. The goal of higher education now seems to be conforming students’ thinking to the politically correct ideology of moral relativism under the guise of promoting “diversity.”
—Steve Wolfe, M.A., Founder of Creation Education Ministries