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August 15, 2019 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily

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4

Thursday, August 15, 2019
The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com
OPINION

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
tothedaily@michigandaily.com

Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.

ERIN WHITE
Editorial Page Editor

Zack Blumberg
Emma Chang
Emily Considine
Joel Danilewitz
Emily Huhman

Tara Jayaram
Jeremy Kaplan
Magdalena Mihaylova
Ellery Rosenzweig
Jason Rowland

Anu Roy-Chaudhury
Alex Satola
Timothy Spurlin
Nicholas Tomaino
Erin White
Ashley Zhang

Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily’s Editorial Board.
All other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.

CASSANDRA MANSUETTI
Editor in Chief

EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS

A

ugust has always had a
tangible, special air for me. It
is undeniably the beginning of
the end — the end of summer, of feeling
the sun on your skin, of family vacations,
of internships and jobs, of being able
to take a day and just breathe without
classes or deadlines or meetings or
reading or anything else. But as the first
Canvas notifications begin to appear in
my inbox and Facebook notifications
alert me of welcome week event
invitations, it’s impossible to avoid the
impending term.
I love summer, but strangley to
some, I love school too. I’ve always
been exhilarated by the promise of new
knowledge, the crispness of new school
supplies and the palpable optimism;
the idea that this is the semester we will
all truly dedicate ourselves to school.
For about a week, nearly everyone is
the perfect student — approaching new
ideas with zeal and enthusiasm, and
actually doing class readings. Though I
know the magic of the new school year
will be short-lived, I’ve always felt it.
Welcome week is the week before
classes begin, when our University’s
infamous Greek life is in full swing,
when many students spend days
partying and drinking. The excitement
of returning to campus and seeing
friends is clear, and the most alluring
social aspects of our school are
magnified, while the demands of
academic life only lure in the future.
But there is an undeniable dark side
to the start of school, too. The culture of
partying and drinking at the University
is certainly not unique; most colleges
face the reality that, despite the legal
drinking age, many college students

drink. As of 2016, 57.2 percent of full-
time college students aged 18 to 22
drank within the past month, and 38
percent engaged in binge drinking,
defined as four or more drinks on an
occasion for women and five or more
for men. For many students, “going
out” entails drinking at least this much
— often more.
Alcohol
consumption,
and
particularly
binge
drinking,
is
undeniably unhealthy. Both the short
and long-term consequences are well
known to most. But while drinking isn’t
healthy, it’s common. Approximately
56 percent of adults over 18 report they
drank in the last month. So, alcohol
consumption is not unique to our
university, or colleges generally. And
while binge drinking certainly carries
a heavy, negative connotation, many
individuals are capable of surpassing
the number of drinks that constitute
binge drinking without throwing
up, blacking out or doing things they
later regret. Many students engage in
behaviors that young adults engage in —
maybe drinking too much occasionally,
but more or less conducting themselves
responsibly while doing so.
However, this is definitely not
the case for everyone. This poses a
significant problem when we think
about welcome week. Especially in a
campus environment where a “work
hard, play hard” culture permeates
strongly, a week dedicated to, simply
put, drinking and partying, heightens
the risks we face while participating in
these behaviors.
When entire days are structured
solely around alcohol and parties,
there is an inherent pressure to keep

drinking. Especially for freshmen
who likely have less experience with
these kinds of environments, welcome
week poses significant danger, and it
shows. As of 2016, drinking by college
students aged 18 to 24 contributes to an
estimated 1,519 deaths annually. It’s not
uncommon to hear about students who
had to make hospital trips due to severe
intoxication — so severe that friends
fear they might die without medical
attention.
Perhaps one of the most hot-
button issues regarding universities,
and Greek life in particular, is the
number of sexual assaults that occur
on campuses. In 2016, the National
Institute of Alcohol Abuse and
Alcoholism estimated that there are
an annual 97,000 sexual assaults by
students who had been drinking.
At the University of Michigan, 2018
brought a 61 percent increase in the
number of reported sexual assaults
— attributed not to an increase in
assaults, but an increase in reporting.
Pamela Heatlie, Senior Director of the
Office of Institutional Equity and Title
IX Coordinator, said, “This is likely due
to continuing efforts around training
and awareness of the Policy, as well as
increased societal awareness of sexual
misconduct, such as through the
#MeToo movement.”
I wish to see the best in people
and places, and how I feel about the
University of Michigan is no different.
I love this university, and I wish I
could say that this issue feels far
removed, that it hasn’t happened in my
community, and that it’s getting better.
And while it has never happened to
me, everyone knows someone who has

been impacted by sexual assault.
The number of reports at the
University of Michigan rose from
only 92 in 2017 to 148 in 2018, and
most of them were not investigated.
Of the tens of thousands of students
at the University, this figure still falls
alarmingly short when contrasted
with the 23.1 percent of female and
5.4 percent of male undergraduates
who experience rape or sexual
assault via physical force, violence or
incapacitation.
There are a hundred things we
could blame for this. But to me, the
most important thing we can do, as
students, is to be aware and hold each
other and the University accountable.
This isn’t necessarily about cracking
down Greek life or drinking or parties.
College students will inevitably find
ways to party and drink, regardless
of the regulations put in place. We
are not entirely responsible for our
own campus culture, but we’re not
powerless either. Creating a safer
campus for everyone begins by facing
today’s reality, and sexual assault
does happen. All the time. U-M, like
many universities, is often labeled as
liberal. But on a micro-level, women
are still objectified and devalued. Binge
drinking is seen as the norm — to the
point where sometimes, virtually no
one is in an alert state of mind.
When I think about the upcoming
welcome week, I am excited about the
fun and reunion that will occur. But
with all of these factors manifesting
themselves in one all-encompassing
week, I can’t help but think about
what can happen. Young freshmen
girls approached by older boys who

can drink more, who are in a familiar
environment and who have the
unfortunate inherent advantage of
being male, surrounded by others
often too drunk to realize what may
happen. I can’t help but mourn for
student survivors of sexual assault
who may not view welcome week as
a fun, new beginning, but as a difficult
reminder.
Instead
of
offering
more
hypotheticals of what could happen,
or telling everyone to categorically
abstain from alcohol consumption, I
would rather urge everyone to, at the
very least, be aware. Make sure your
friends are safe and accounted for,
but also make sure that all the people
around you are safe — even those you
may not know. To members of Greek
life, hold each other accountable for
the impression that the community
creates. Even by doing things as simple
as calling out your fellow frat brother’s
female-objectifying
language,
or
telling your friend to maybe sit out
of the next shot while pregaming,
we work to create a better Greek life
system, a better campus and a better
society generally.
This welcome week will, sadly,
be my last. And while I enter with
optimism for a new year, I also enter
with trepidation, because I know what
is at stake. And it is this apprehension
and awareness that often prevents the
trauma and even death we hear about
from friends and in the news, feelings
we may never truly understand until
they impact us.

OLIVIA TURANO | COLUMN

Welcome week is all fun and games, until it isn’t

APPLY TO BE PART OF OPINION

Undergraduate students are
encouraged to apply for an Opinion
column for Fall term. Columns publsih
bi-weekly, and writers will attend
Editorial Board meetings as part of
staff. Applications are due Tuesday,
August 20, by 11:59 pm. Email Editorial
Page Editors Joel Danilewitz (joeldan@
umich.edu) and Magdalena Mihaylova
(mmihaylo@umich.edu) for application
materials, or more information.

Olivia Turano can be reached at

turanoo@umich.edu.

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