Numbers may be misleading

Theodore R. Griffiths
Opinion Editor

I frequent a beautiful men’s bathroom in the bottom floor of the SMC, right next to The Snapper office, and I always find myself reading the exciting information on the Stall Talk posters.
A few weeks back I studied the poster to find a graph stating that I should be failing all of my classes right now, at least according to the always perfectly accurate statistics of a bathroom-based health bulletin.
This graph stated that students who had nine or more drinks per week had failing grades, with grades increasing as the number of drinks per week decreased. I had a serious dilemma with these statistics, and not only because they were from 1996 (always read the fine print).
stalltalkFirst of all, never trust anything from the 1990s. Everyone who was an adult in that era had to be on some seriously hard drugs to wear the atrocious neon-colored sports clothing that was offered by Fila. The 1990s are a time that we should all forget, and in 2013, a time that we should ignore all statistics that were gathered then.
The second issue has nothing to do with the time, but everything to do with the style in which that information was gathered. Statistics like these are usually gathered in a self-report study, which is a type of survey in which respondents read the question and select a response by themselves without researcher interference.
One serious issue with a self-report study is social desirability bias, which is the tendency of respondents to answer questions in a manner that will be viewed favorably by others. In this case, most students did not want to give the highest answer, which was nine or more, because in that context they look like they have a problem.
This means that even though these students are anonymous, only the few who have absolutely no shame and already acknowledge that they are failing will answer those questions honestly, and this is where you get the extremely skewed statistics.
I’ll be honest with the less than five people reading this and let you know that I drink at least double that answer and I am an A student. Nine drinks in a week, if spread out, amounts to only one drink per night, plus an extra one on two separate occasions. If you are getting hammered enough to fail class off of one drink then you don’t have a drinking problem, you have a health problem and you need to get to a doctor immediately.

From the National Collegiate Health Assessment, but still incredibly hard to believe.
From the National Collegiate Health Assessment, but still incredibly hard to believe.

I don’t condone drinking, and I have a lot of respect for you if you don’t, but that does not mean that you are better than me (mainly because I have a huge ego and I don’t think anyone is better than me). The reality is that nine drinks per week is more than likely the average for college students, and I don’t think that is a bad thing.
I never drink heavily during the week (and by never I mean sometimes), but I always have a glass or two of wine before bed. This is not because I want to party, get crazy, go dancing, or do whatever you kids do, but because I like to sleep and wine puts me to bed.
As students, we should not be ashamed of what we do in the privacy (or lack-thereof) of our own dorm rooms, apartments, houses, etc. Be honest on these surveys and let people know that you still maintained that 3.8 while killing five shots and six beers last Friday. Maybe then these “health educators” will put the need for responsible drinking over the apparent need to abstain from drinking.
Abstaining from alcohol use in college, or life in general, is almost impossible for most people. This is not because these people experience alcoholism, peer pressure, or whatever other buzz words come to mind, but because people need to relax after class or work, and a quick drink does that job.
On another note, if they really think that a student can abstain from drinking then they have never taken a night class. Moonshine couldn’t even put me in a good mood after three hours of English majors stroking each other’s egos over some (I can only assume) horrible book.