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Holidays bring student binge drinking, arrests

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Photo illustration by Austin Brumblay / Cuesta Journalism 201A student


By Allison Turner
Special Contributor
Journalism 201A

“Drink, drink, drink!” is a common chant echoed throughout college parties during many holidays and cultural celebrations. College culture can be defined by holiday bar crawls and night-long celebrations involving mass gatherings of local students.

However, these escapades can also bring binge drinking, underage consumption and increased arrests.

A recent survey of Cuesta and Cal Poly students showed that New Year’s Eve was the most popular drinking holiday, followed by Halloween, Independence Day, and Día de los Muertos. These holidays made up the top drinking holidays in 75 percent of students surveyed.

The survey also addressed binge drinking. According to the results, 49 percent of the students said they participate in holiday celebrations with the intent to binge drink, while 7 percent of students only sometimes binge drink on holidays.

This survey showed that of the 49 percent, 41 percent binge drink between four to six holidays of the year and 24 percent binge drink between seven to nine of the holidays.

With increased drinking, sometimes comes over-the-top behavior — and arrests.

For instance, over the Halloween weekend, the San Luis Obispo Police Department saw an increase in party- and alcohol-related reports compared to non-holiday and standard weekends.

The police logs from Oct. 27 to Nov. 1 show a total of 66 police calls throughout the city, ranging from disorderly reports near college residences to DUIs in downtown San Luis Obispo.

Many of these calls were logged as complaints about college student parties infringing on the city’s noise ordinance, reports show. The noise complaints mainly occurred from Saturday evening into the early hours of Sunday. Many of these complaints show accompanying alcohol infringements in the police logs.

During holidays, the fine for violating the noise ordinance doubles to $700.

Data specific to under-age drinking fines and arrests was not available, according to the SLO PD.

However, after interviewing weekend partygoers, it was revealed that many students were not of drinking age, but still chose to attend alcohol-centered parties and events. Typically, a fine of $250 is imposed for first-time offenses and $500 for second — but this doesn’t appear to stop people.

“I went out this weekend mostly because my friends said it would be a good time,” said a student who wished to remain anonymous for legal reasons.

“We’re always looking for a way to unwind and house parties are the cheapest way to go and the easiest for underage students like myself,” he said. “The place was a chaotic mess, but it was something to do other than sitting around in a dorm on a major holiday.”

Local student Lucas Newcomb was one of the over-21 crowd partaking in alcohol-related celebrations.

“I celebrate probably seven holidays out of the year and do drink with friends for most,” Newcomb said. “I 100 percent think students are drinking as a stress relief. We’re so wound up when it comes to school, there’s a lot of due dates and responsibilities and we need an outlet to let loose and enjoy life.”

While the nightlife surrounding holidays known as “Cinco de Drinko” and “St. Fratty’s Day,” along with Halloween and New Years can be appealing, many students participating are unaware of the history and culture surrounding their favorite drinking holidays.

The survey data shows that students actively seek out activities surrounding alcohol consumption over holidays. It also showed that the majority would be interested in learning more about the history and culture surrounding their favorite drinking weekends.

“I wish we had more classes made accessible to students surrounding the historical aspects of the holidays,” said one under-age weekend party goer. “Everyone likes to go out and party, but few people know what the actual days represent.”