Eh, what a rough few days, and what a rough few more lie ahead, but by Jesus’ birthday, I should be free and clear. So bear with me, folks.
I keep wanting to discuss the UVA rape story, but I have my own story on the topic coming out today in Bridge, so I better not, but one 900-pound gorilla in all these discussions of campus rape — it seems to me, anyway — is alcohol. It’s not exactly ignored, but I’m astonished at today’s college drinking culture, and how la-de-da we seem to be about it.
We’ve discussed this before. I’m sure we’ve been through the No. 1 Party School and all our usual baby-boom grumping, but every so often something comes along to suggest nothing is getting better and may, in fact, be getting worse. The other day an Ann Arbor writer published a blog that made a bit of a splash, about a football Saturday spent in the Ann Arbor ER:
Yesterday’s football game, the last home game of the season, was scheduled to begin at 4:30, and, by 2:00, the students were already beginning to make their way in, escorted by EMTs. Given the way my bed was situated, I couldn’t see a great deal, but I did pick up on several distinct conversations, most all of which began with students being asked, “Do you know where you are?” (They rarely did.)
For the purposes of this post, I’d like to just share one example… that of a young woman who came in nearly comatose, having been found covered in vomit in an Ann Arbor alley. Of all the folks I’d hear that day, it was her that I was most worried about.
I could see her come in. The EMTs brought her down the corridor, strapped to a board, telling the hospital staff where she’d been found. Her head was hanging to one side, like her neck couldn’t support the weight of it. One of the nurses, I remember, commented to one of his coworkers that the human head weights 13 pounds, and it takes a lot of muscle control to hold it up. When she first came in, before I realized that her admission was alcohol related, I honestly thought that she had an advanced neuromuscular disease of some kind. As the conversation between nurses continued, though, I put the pieces together… Within a few minutes of arriving, and being told that she was at a hospital, she began vomiting.
Later we find the girl — found in an alley, covered in vomit — is a student, and apparently pledging a sorority. I keep thinking about the found-in-an-alley part. How did she get there? Who were her friends? Did she wander off? This was in November, hardly the best weather for passing out in the great outdoors.
How is this, if not a health crisis, at least a topic of national discussion? Why do so many parents think this sort of thing is simply to be expected? I got plenty hammered when I was in college, but I never ended up passed out in an alley, covered with vomit. A few years back, there was a series in one of the Midwestern papers about a string of mysterious deaths at one of the University of Wisconsin branch campuses, maybe La Crosse? Who was killing the students who disappeared while walking home late at night? No one, actually; they were drowning in the Mississippi River. Which they fell into while drunk.
For all the talk of date-rape drugs and spiked drinks, the truth is, the most common date-rape drug in America, by far, is alcohol. I don’t think it constitutes victim-blaming to tell young women to watch their alcohol consumption, if only to improve their odds of avoiding assault.
But what do I know? Maybe you’ll like this Neil Steinberg blog on the newspaper industry’s tradition of obituaries written in advance.
Me, I’m off to bed.