Throwback Thursday: Student drinking can be treated as a tribal ritual


Brett Donohoe

While excessive alcohol consumption has always been an issue on college campuses, one would seldom compare the practice to tribal behavior; however, an article from the Oct. 19, 1988, edition of The Daily Texan makes just that connection.

The article, titled “Student drinkers engage in tribal ritual,” sought to raise awareness of alcoholism in the context of social drinking. 

“With the group all present, the tribal ritual begins,” the article said. “Glasses or plastic cups are filled and passed out. Members of the tribe slam the toxic material into their bodies, and continue to repeat the tradition over and over until they are forced to meet with the porcelain god.”

This article was part of an in-depth piece on alcohol awareness, which also discussed “Women and Alcoholism” and Greek parties. 

“Many students embrace the Animal House mentality and demonstrate that drinking to excess is their tribal rite,” Jerry Horton, the then-co-coordinator of the campus alcohol and drug education program, said in the article.

Horton also brought up the problem of drinking to excess. 

“To a significant degree students buy into these mythic stereotypic images [of drinking being associated with health, vitality, social bonding and trendiness] and conform to them,” Horton said.

Packaged with this article, a piece, titled “Fictional Greek party brings up real issues,” detailed a skit reenactment of a typical Greek party, presented by several fraternities and sororities, in order to bring the practice under scrutiny. 

Members of various Greek organizations staged ‘Anatomy of a Party,’ … guiding a crowd of several hundred Greeks and pledges through a fictional frat party at the Sigma Epsilon Chi (SEX) house, and discussing the consequences of the partiers’ actions,” the article said.

The event stressed the different compromising situations that could, and do, occur at an archetypal party. 

“One scene involved a crowd peer-pressuring a pledge into downing a beer-bong and a frat boy passing out after slamming three cans, leading to a discussion of hazing and medical emergencies at parties,” the article said. 

Later, the article discussed rape in the context of a party. 

“The issue of rape came up in a scene where several of the partygoers discovered a girl passed out upstairs,” the article said. 

“It’s incredible to me that we even have to talk about this,” an event participant said. “I think this problem starts long before the party, and has to do with attitudes about women and the way we treat them.”

The whole in-depth piece ended with an ad offering resources for combating alcoholism. But, the issue persists. 

“Alcoholism is a problem for our society everywhere,” Ruth, a volunteer for Alcoholics Anonymous and recovering alcoholic, said in the article. “I wouldn’t single out the University. The problem is probably not any greater there, but also not any lesser either.”