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Going out tonight? Drinking culture should be a question, not an expectation

The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.

It's a turn-of-phrase that litters our text messages and small talk, and it sometimes doesn't even have to be asked: Who's going out tonight?

The question starts filtering into our conversations and dominating our weekend plans soon after we get our student IDs printed. It quickly becomes proper social protocol to talk about 90s night and it becomes instinctual to respond to these questions with a "yes," because it's known as the thing to do.

When we first get here, we think going out is the norm. We come into Miami hearing tales of drunkenness and we're thirsty for our chance to join in. So when the going-out train starts, many of us hop on without much thought. We go out on Tuesday and skip our classes and we subscribe to a language of country nights and bar crawls and Jello shots. We go out, and we see all the smiling faces of our peers around us and we feel like we're doing something right. So we find a spot in the crowd and pour another drink. This is what everyone else our age is doing. This is college, we think.

But, when compared to the national average of what everybody our age is doing, it seems we tend to do more. Miami's version of partying seems to go a little further and harder than at other colleges. In fact, Miami students come to college drinking less than others their age, and after the first month or so on campus, 10 percent of first-years become high-risk drinkers, according to AlcoholEdu reports. A larger percentage of Miami students claim to have become high-risk and light/moderate drinkers at college when compared to the national data.

All of that drinking culture talk may seem like funny generalizations, but we're seeing it show up in tangible ways. If we think about what really makes up a drinking culture, you can't miss the signs here at Miami.

The impact of high-risk drinking isn't something to push under the rug or laugh off while shot-gunning another beer. There's a long list of reasons to consider our drinking culture a real problem.

Students, in one way or another, take it too far. When alcohol is involved, it's easy to throw all kinds of caution to the wind, tossing our clothes and morals and rationalities aside.

Some students show up in the police beat. Some black out. Some walk in front of cars. Some get too tired and lay down in the grass on a frigid January night. Some hook up with people they don't know. Some get into fights with their friends. Some don't really feel like going out, but they do it anyway. Some would rather drink than study or get internships or go to that lecture. Some stumble into exams after a night out, wearing pajamas and scraggly hair with no clue how to answer that prompt.

And others will become dependent on that one drink and after a while, maybe they can't imagine going a day or a weekend without some form of alcohol.

But we all go along with it and champion it by wearing jerseys and passing out shots and crossing days off our calendar until Green Beer Day. And what's our excuse? "It's college."

Isn't college a time to figure out who we are and stake our individual claims on the world, though? Shouldn't our college experience be more defined by our independent pursuits than following the crowd at Beat The Clock? While excessive drinking isn't a problem for every student at Miami, are too many of us on the edge of going too far? Are we rolling the dice?

We can't pass off something like a drinking culture as just another badge of honor to describe Miami without worrying about the influence. Going out isn't something we can put on our resumes or something that builds meaningful friendships or helps us become the people we really want to be.

So, why is it so engrained in our everyday existence?

There are so many other facets of the college experience, from learning about something that sets a fire inside to meeting people who challenge us and question our ideas. We can't let one part of college take over everything else and cast a shadow on our growth, successes, friendships, dreams.

So next time the "are you going out" question circulates, take a moment. Don't say yes just because it's expected. Don't say yes just because it's a Friday night. Don't say yes just because you go to Miami and that's what we do.

Consider what else you could or should be doing, think about what might happen that night or the next day or the next year and then give an answer you're sure of.