Iowa Tries To Curb Drinking With Friday Classes

Students at the University of Iowa might find themselves setting their alarm clocks for early Friday morning as administrators there attempt to curb Thursday-night drinking. The university is offering incentives to departments to schedule classes on Friday mornings after the results of a recent study suggested that undergrads would drink less the night before.

But at Harvard, Thursday night’s revelry appears to remain safe for now.
Psychology researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia found that students who do not have classes on Fridays consume twice as much alcohol on Thursdays as those who do have Friday classes.

Binge drinking—a growing concern on many college campuses, including Harvard—is defined as consuming five or more standard drinks for men and four or more for women.

The University of Iowa will offer departments $20 for every student enrolled in Friday morning classes, following the researchers’ recommendation that colleges schedule classes before 10 a.m. on Fridays to discourage Thursday night binges.

But Harvard seems unlikely to follow suit.

Ryan M. Travia, Harvard’s director of alcohol and substance abuse services, said that while Iowa’s plan makes sense in theory, he would hesitate to apply it here until more research is done.

Travia said that by some measures, Harvard has less of a binge drinking problem than its peer institutions. While other universities report that 40 to 45 percent of their students engage in binge drinking, Travia said that only 30 percent of Harvard students reported consuming more than four drinks in a single evening.

Several Harvard professors said they never see Thursday’s debauchery spill over in Friday’s classes.

“I have never noticed a single situation where I felt that students’ behavior had been influenced by drinking,” said Paul G. Bamberg ‘63, a senior lecturer in  mathematics.

Professor Tom C. Conley, the co-master of Kirkland House who has taught seminars on the geography of wine, said that at Harvard, Friday is not the “fallow” day it is at many institutions because of the motivated nature of undergrads.

Yet several students said they wanted  an end to Friday classes—the opposite of the University of Iowa’s plan.

Burak Tekin ’08 said that Friday classes ought to be eliminated altogether, so that students have free time left over once they finish doing work on the weekends.

Not all students clear their Fridays so that they can party on Thursday.
“I volunteer on Fridays,” Beverley I. Barnes ’09 said.

The College has taken measures to curb drinking in the past.

In 2003, a steady increase in the number of students admitted to University Health Services for alcohol poisoning led then-Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 to announce the formation of the Committee to Address Alcohol and Health. Hiring an alcohol czar—Travia—was one of the committee’s recommendations.

Travia in turn created the Drug and Alcohol Peer Adviser (DAPA) program, a group of about 21 undergraduates that educates students about the effects of drugs and alcohol and attempts to change the culture surrounding drinking at Harvard.

Christopher F. Altchek ‘09, a DAPA, said that the program’s main goal is to keep students healthy, rather than to address underage drinking.

“I definitely think the College shouldn’t take [drinking] into consideration when deciding the schedule, because most kids are responsible,” Altchek said.

—Staff writer Sarah J. Howland can be reached at showland@fas.harvard.edu.