Binge Drinking on College Campuses

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Published on August 11, 2010 with No Comments

A Matter of Fear, Not Freedom

teenage campus drinking

Teaching assistants, typically graduate students hired to help undergrads with their courses, are staples on college campuses. Indiana University shyness expert Bernardo J. Carducci said social assistants, people hired to help new students with their conversation IQ and social skills, should become staples, as well. Carducci, director of the Shyness Research Institute at IU Southeast, said that new students are no different than the estimated 40 percent of the population that is shy.

The transition to college, however, can exacerbate this vulnerability, so students turn to an easy conversation-maker – booze.

“Usually universities have organizers, not facilitators,” Carducci said. “You bring these people together, but you don’t help them connect. You don’t have people who go around and say, ‘Steve, this is Rachel.’ You need to do this at a much more personal level. That’s what social facilitators at keggers do. They’re walking around handing you drinks.”

Carducci says binge drinking is the fruit of the fear and anxiety new students can experience, not the result of them enjoying their new-found independence.

“What this really is all about is the process of transition, the process of change,” Carducci said. “Change brings uncertainty. Uncertainty brings anxiety. They drink out of fear. They drink out of anxiety. They drink out of loneliness. They don’t talk about how afraid they are because they think everyone will think they’re a weenie. So, they conform. They talk about drinking – where did they go, what did they do, where are they going this week. It gives students a topic of conversation. What begins to happen is they drink to get accepted.”

Carducci, a psychology professor and author of “The Pocket Guide to Making Successful Small Talk: How to Talk to Anyone Anytime Anywhere About Anything”, said that university administrators need to acknowledge the dynamic by letting students know the root of their drinking is in loneliness, fear and anxiety.

“Tell them you know they’re drinking because they want to be liked and accepted. Don’t make it a moral or emotional appeal,” he said.

According to Carducci, students have a drinking problem if they drink alcohol to feel relaxed at social functions or comfortable dancing or talking with others or if they pre-drink – drink before they go to social functions so they “feel” more relaxed and comfortable when they arrive.

Carducci said that students focus less on their own challenges with their transition to school when they focus on the needs of others. Volunteering puts students in a low stress situation because typically it’s their time that is desired, not special skills. It lets them meet other people with similar interests.

Likewise, a job can also help students with school by making them more organized and helping them meet people.

This information was provided by the Indiana University News Room. To learn more about the Shyness Research Institute, visit

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