“I had 7 shots of vodka in 45 minutes,” recounted one member of the Class of 2022, when asked what factors led to his ultimate transportation from Hoagie Haven to Princeton Medical Center on the night of Monday, September 10th around midnight, shortly after having vomited on the restaurant’s countertop.
While the vast majority of people, medical professionals, civilians, and students alike, would adamantly agree that there are few rational reasons to attempt to reach these levels of intoxication in such a short period of time, there were extenuating circumstances this particular Monday, to say the least.
Earlier that evening, the Interclub Council (ICC) made a Facebook post which, to the dismay of many first-years, banned frosh from the all eating clubs on Prospect Avenue, commonly referred to as “the Street.” The post’s wording was considerably vague, stating that the measure was “due to a joint effort between the university and the clubs to support First Year Student Orientation Programming.” In reality, however, many students instantly recognized that the ban was a response to the unusually high number of first-years sent to the health center (or more colloquially “McCoshed”) and hospitalized on the first two nights of the party-filled Frosh Week.
For context, Quadrangle Club had been shut down the night before when a first-year dislocated his knee on the dance floor and was consequently transported to Princeton Medical Center (commonly referred to by the initialism PMC) for treatment. Although this event may have been the last straw for University administrators, it was only one of many others. According to University spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss, the majority of the 15 beds available in McCosh were filled for both nights prior to the incident, and 4 first-years were sent to PMC. With these statistics in mind, the University’s decision to ban first-years from the Street is hypothetically understandable. The effects of this ban, however, were undoubtedly different than those hoped for by University administrators.
When asked why he drank such a great volume in such a short time, the first-year from the Hoagie Haven incident, who prefers to remain unnamed, explained that he was pregaming in a dorm with his Community Action group and “doing a bunch of shots because it would be easier to get drunk fast there,” with the knowledge that first-years were banned from the Street. According to statistics acquired from Hotchkiss, 5 first-years were transported to PMC on the night of the ICC ban, more than those transported on Saturday and Sunday combined.
Unfortunately, the University’s goal to keep first-years from excessive drinking was misguided. In many ways, the eating clubs may actually protect frosh from harm. None of the eating clubs, with the exception of Quadrangle, serves hard alcohol. As a result, students generally become intoxicated much slower on the Street than at pregames. Furthermore, safeguards like bouncers, the presence of club officers, and the UMatter bus, which takes students home from Prospect Avenue directly to their dorms on Thursday through Saturday, give inexperienced drinkers a safe space to experiment.
The predictable alternative to this, and what ended up happening, is some variation of the following situation: small groups of frosh, binge-drinking hard alcohol in their dorm rooms, and walking around campus in the dark. One female first-year (who would also like to remain unnamed) explained that she went to a pregame but knew that she wouldn’t be able to drink very long, so while she “usually would have paced herself, [she] just kept drinking shot after shot of rum,” until ultimately ending up being admitted to McCosh by a concerned friend.
Situations like these were the immediate effect of the ban on the Class of 2022, hungry for new college experiences and scared of missing out.
It’s been over a month since the night of September 10th, but the effects of the ICC’s decision have lasted far beyond Frosh Week. These effects raise the following question: Did the ICC’s decision to ban frosh from the Street help in the long run?
A considerable number of first-years believe that the answer to this question is no. As first-year Wells Carson commented, “With so many first-years being taken to McCosh during Frosh Week and the subsequent restrictions placed on our class, I have felt a pressure to not McCosh friends except in very dangerous circumstances.” It’s important to note the emphasis which the Department of Public Safety put on the importance of helping intoxicated friends in need. Prior to the commencement of Frosh Week, the Class of 2022 was given a presentation by PSafe urging them always to call PSafe, if unsure whether or not someone is in need of assistance. The presentation also emphasized that students would not face repercussions for calling for help, but rather that they would if they didn’t. This policy left many first-years feeling protected, comfortable, and safe to experiment with alcohol, many of them for the first time, knowing that it wasn’t taboo.
Unfortunately, many of the aforementioned sentiments came to a sudden halt after the frosh ban on the street. By telling first-years to be extra cautious and then slapping them on the wrist for doing so, there is now an implicit stigma regarding prematurely McCoshing friends, “out of a fear of University restrictions” Carson elaborated. First-year Richard Yang concurred with these sentiments, stating that ever since the incident, he’s heard several first-years saying, “Don’t McCosh or PMC me until I tell you to.” Out of fear of a second ban, or other punishment, the threshold for what is worth a call to PSafe has been raised substantially, ultimately putting a greater number of students at a higher risk than existed prior to the ban.
Moving forward, the University isn’t at fault for responding to many successive incidents of intoxication in a concerned manner. However, it seems evident that the most effective way to respond is not by saying one thing—that there’s no stigma around aiding an intoxicated friend—and then acting in a way which suggests the opposite—that by seeking out help, students could face future repercussions. It is vital that students not fear the retaliation of the University administration and respond with distrust, but rather recognize that one misguided University response to Frosh Week doesn’t change that in the moment, seeking out help must undoubtedly be their first priority.