Just over three weeks ago, Georgia Southern University student Michael Gatto passed away due to head injuries received in a bar altercation at Rude Rudy’s in the University Plaza.
Since then, establishments in The Plaza and other restaurants that sell alcohol have been experiencing a crackdown on underage drinking. Statesboro police are entering these establishments and carding individuals seen with an alcoholic beverage.
Since this has started, there has been a spike in underaged drinking arrests and even more in citations.
SPD Underaged Drinking Arrests since Sept. 4: 28
GSPD Underaged Drinking Arrests on campus since Sept. 4: 2
GSPD Alcohol Violation Arrests on campus since Sept. 4: 16
GSPD DUI arrests on campus since Sept. 4: 3
Does GSU have a drinking problem?
We asked President Keel, Dean Jackson and various Georgia Southern University students to answer the question: “Does GSU have a drinking problem?” in response to the recent activities surrounding the bars.
“There’s a lot of talk about whether we need new alcohol ordinances or whatever. Facts of the matter are: we’ve got alcohol ordinances that are on the books, they’ve just apparently not been enforced. Let me qualify that there are some institutions that enforce them more than others. By that I mean, more bad things happen at some places than others. Now, is that a factor of some establishments paying more attention to this or creating a safer environment? I don’t know, but that sure is the way it looks.
“As much as students may feel they’re being harassed in public, fact of the matter is: if you’re under 21 years old, drinking is against the law. It’s not an ordinance, it’s not a city thing, it’s against the law. If you’re under 21, you can’t drink. I hate it, I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is.
“If you look across the country in all of these issues, you’ll find that we’re no different than anyone else. The one potential caveat is that some communities may be better at policing their existing ordinances than others, and I think it’s plain that, in this city, we need to do a better job and we’ve just started to.
“Eliminating the bars is not the answer, I think. I’ve been a very large proponent of economic development in this city, and the last thing I want to do is to shut down a business, any kind of business.
“If you want to have a party, or find a party, you can find one here. Just like when I was at Augusta College, a completely different institution, if I wanted to find a party I could. I don’t think we’re any different than anyone else in that regard.”
“This whole idea that students come to college and they “change”-at home they’re perfect and then they come to college and change into this drinking person- that’s a myth. That’s not how it works. What we’ve seen is whatever behavior the student had at home, they bring that with them and connect with students who have like behavior.
“To pretend that people younger than 21 are not gonna drink because we say, ‘Don’t do that’ is not wise. We know better than that. I’m concerned that there is a culture of alcohol or substance use that students are well aware of, then a layer of confidentiality and then there’s the administration.
“If all of those establishments are shut down, or they are turned into an atmosphere where students don’t want to be, that doesn’t mean students aren’t going to party, that just means they’re going to party in locations that have no accountability and we have no knowledge of anything that’s going on until something really bad happens. I fear that more than anything else.
“College is a time where students have the opportunity to decide, ‘What behaviors will I engage in? How far am I going to allow myself to go?’ This is the time where they learn those limits. It’s my preference they learn those limits in a safer environment as opposed to an environment with zero accountability and no help at all.
“I’m not here to tell any college student what decisions they need to make for their life, but I am here to encourage them and to help them seriously consider their choices and seriously consider their responsibilities to each other. They should be having a good time, they should be enjoying themselves but also learning how to enjoy yourself in a way that doesn’t endanger your life or the life of others.”
“Yes, freshman especially. They can make their own decisions now, and they’re making unhealthy ones because no one is stopping them. The accessibility is dangerous. As a CL, I see it everyday. We try to encourage students to not drink, or at least do it responsibly.”
“Yes, because the bars are located right in the middle of campus, and it’s easy to get into them. None of the people at the bars care either because they just want to make money.”
“No I do not think GSU is different than any other schools when it comes to drinking. I have been to many colleges and visited schools like Tech and Auburn, and the only difference I have noticed is that we are more open about it and kinda advertise that we are a party school whereas other schools keep their drinking on the down low.”
“I wouldn’t necessarily say a drinking problem. Some people just enjoy drinking and some people don’t. Not everyone drinks. I do think we have a problem on how we act while we drink.”
“I don’t think this school has a drinking problem. Alcohol is the only legal drug, other than tobacco, so what else are you supposed to do?”
“I do believe so. Students are always throwing parties and they’re always talking on Yik Yak about drinking. They wake up drinking and go to bed drinking. You can even smell it on some of them in class.”
“GSU alone does not have a drinking problem. Every college contains a handful of underage drinking, but this has always been the case. Although many people view it as a problem, I view it as the norm.”
“I think every university has a drinking problem. It’s the only time in their life where they don’t have anything to worry about.”
“I don’t think so. I haven’t really noticed a drinking problem, but I don’t go out a lot.”
“Georgia Southern doesn’t have a drinking problem, but it does have a drinking culture. It does become a problem because drinking and partying interferes with class and showing up for it. As students get older they become better at managing the two. Unfortunately, it’s the norm like at most schools.”
“I personally know people who came to Georgia Southern specifically to party, but even the students who are partiers keep their grades up and are not seen under the influence. Because I don’t drink or party and my friends don’t either, I believe that we shouldn’t be under the same ratio as alcoholics.”
“I want to say no, but understandably, considering the incidents at the bars and the individuals were underage, I think Georgia Southern doesn’t prosecute as harshly as they probably should but a general drinking problem, I don’t think that’s the case.”
“As a whole, GSU does not have an alcohol problem; however, drinking on the weekends is a very popular activity.”
“No, although Southern may have a reputation of being a party school, most other universities face similar issues. I’ve been to other schools and they aren’t much different in this aspect.”
“No, I don’t believe they have a drinking problem. The individual choices of a small amount of students gets sensationalized.”
“I feel like it’s no different here than other colleges. At all colleges there is underage drinking. But I don’t think it is a problem. Everyone does it.”
“Compared to other colleges, no. But it all depends on the people you hang out with. Depending on the people, some may drink more than others.”
“I think that for a town like Statesboro drinking has become a large problem. But if I compared our school to, like, Georgia Tech or UGA I would say that drinking is the least of GSU’s problems.”
“Yes, I feel that we are socially brought up to party through entertainment media like movies, so when college comes around everyone wants to go out to drink and do their own thing because that’s seen as the norm.”
“Yes, [it is] introduced and expected by everyone that comes in by the upperclassmen.”