(Editor’s Note: SeeThruEdu.com has confirmed that the anonymous author of this piece is a student at a Texas university.)
For college students across the country, the weekend does not begin at 5 p.m. on Friday. Thursday afternoon marks the start of a three-day binge drinking marathon that has left alumni wondering where Friday classes have gone.
According to the National Survey of Student Engagement, the average full-time student spends 15 hours a week outside of class studying. Lax academic standards at American universities encourage a culture where binge drinking on weeknights is not only acceptable, but manageable.
Students taking the typical 15-hour course load have strategically planned their schedules around “Thirsty Thursday,” as described by a Texas Tech student. Faculty–recognizing poor attendance during Friday morning classes–cut back on the number of hours offered on the unofficial, weekly campus holiday.
In an effort to combat problematic weeknight drinking, Washington State University President, Elson S. Floyd, encouraged professors to hold “routine scheduling of Friday classes with substantive academic activities occurring during Friday classes, e.g., exams or quizzes scheduled, exam review sessions, and project due dates on Fridays.” Apparently at Washington State University, nothing academically substantive happens on a Friday.
But nothing academically substantive happens on a Friday at Harvard College, either. Asked if many students had classes on Friday, a recent engineering graduate replied, “No, almost no one. Except the math and science kids.”
Students at schools ranging from Clemson to the University of Texas expressed similar schedules, while a recent Greek graduate of Dartmouth College described popular student social drinking nights as “Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.” Binge drinking at Dartmouth College was recently put in the national spotlight by a New York Times article, describing the Animal House alma mater’s attempts to reign in its party reputation.
A national normalization of binge drinking explains only part of this campus problem: If more was demanded of students in the classroom, they would be forced to reconsider that third, fourth, or fifth beer.
The landmark, 2011 study of college learning, Academically Adrift, administeredthe Collegiate Learning Assessment to measure how much students increase their fundamental academic skills—critical thinking, complex reasoning, and clear writing—during their four years invested in college. Shockingly, it found that 36 percent of students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” during their time in college, and 50 percent reported they did not have a course requiring 20 pages total of writing the previous semester. When schools are ranked according to incoming freshman profiles and money spent on “LEED-certified” buildings (“Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design”), rather than academic rigor and learning outcomes, universities are incentivized to pay less attention to the latter.
With grade inflation rampant—an A is now the most common grade given in college (43% nationwide—it is no surprise that three-day weekends are the norm.
An increase in “substantive academic activities” on Friday could lead to a decrease in “substantive alcohol activities” on Thursday night, and maybe, just maybe, more learning.