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Drinking Done on Special Occasions Rather Than Habitually -- Wide Divergence in Opinions


After submitting numerous questionnaires on the subject of drinking to one of his classes in Social Ethics, Professor R. C. Cabot '89 of the University faculty has come to the conclusion that drinking is less prevalent among undergraduates now than it was 30 years ago in his own undergraduate days. He reached his decision after carefully perusing the evidence submitted by his pupils, some of the most interesting bits of which he has given to the CRIMSON for publication.

The concensus of opinion, as derived from this unique experiment, is that roughly 35 per cent of the undergraduates are total abstainers, that 60 per cent may be classed as "moderate drinkers", and 5 per cent as "heavy drinkers". Dr. Cabot has offered these figures for what they may be worth as a cross-section of student opinion, and not with any assumption of authority.

Drunk on Special Occasions

The comments submitted by individuals are more enlightening even than the figures. They establish in a majority of cases the contention that the number of steady drinkers is very small, but that men of regularly sober habits drink to excess on "certain stated occasions, such as days of football games, end of exam periods, etc."

Considerable difficulty was encountered by the students in making their classifications. Chief among these was the definition of terms. What is a "moderate drinker"? One answer hazarded the opinion, "A moderate drinker is one who never refuses a drink, but never buys one." "A heavy drinker," says the same answer, "demands access to a supply at all times, and keeps himself loaded as often as possible". The writer estimates this class to be from 2 to 5 per cent.

Appearances Are Misleading

One Sophomore declares: "Personally I don't know any student in college who drinks regularly every day or keeps liquor in his room or club except for special occasions. Most buy what they want and consume it on the spot in toto. The result is that when the Harvard student drinks at all he is very apt to be drunk, whether he is an excessive drinker or not. This makes the Harvard situation difficult to classify."

The figures offered vary to an amazing degree. One man, a Freshman, writes the following: "Abstainers, 90 per cent; Moderate Drinkers, 2 per cent; Heavy Drinkers, 8 per cent. The fact that 10 to 20 boys appear in the street drunk usually labels the whole college. I think that the vast majority of students do not drink . . . practically no so-called moderate drinkers . . . football games and celebrations are exceptions. Then perhaps an extra 5 per cent drink."

In contrast to this, a Sophomore writes: "Moderate Drinkers, none: 98 per cent heavy though not habitual drinkers: 75 per cent of these heavy drinkers are of the periodic class. When they do drink they do not limit themselves to any three tablespoonfuls, but go in it for all it is worth. Most men pick out a propitious time and get gloriously "tight" . . . perhaps not touching any liquor in the meanwhile."

The following are quotations from random opinions:

"I think the majority of drinkers are extremely light drinkers, with an occasional peak in consumption."

Has Never Been Offered Drink

"Fully three out of four boys I know, and I once counted up over 350 acquaintances, are total abstainers; of the remaining 25 per cent about half are moderate and about half heavy drinkers. Since I have been in college I have never been offered a drink. I have seen only two men under the influence of liquor in any dormitory."

"It is my opinion that 90 per cent of the drinkers do not drink because they like it, but only because they think it is smart."

"Moderate drinkers, 45 per cent (guess), do not take some every day, but do spend evenings in drinking, but do not necessarily get drunk. The moderate drinker rarely knows how to drink. Heavy drinkers, 5 per cent, may drink daily and have drinking parties very often."

"Drinking every day, moderately or heavily, has to my knowledge decreased since prohibition. On the other hand, I feel that prohibition has caused many men to drink to excess who probably would never do so otherwise."

"Last summer in Europe, 100 per cent of my friends drank heavily.

"Of Harvard men of my acquaintance 75 per cent are total abstainers either because of inclination, lack of finances, or lack of temptation. Twenty per cent may drink just a bit, including club and frat men and others of a sociable nature, and a few because they wish to be smart or in style. Five per cent, due to lack of character, to temptations, and to various other causes, drink beyond what may be called moderate."

"I kept statistics of the Freshman crew squad of the season of 192 carefully. Four of the 14 men never drank and have remained abstainers, nine were very moderate drinkers, one was an occasional drunk--consumed a great deal during a drinking spell and at other times did not drink at all."

A Senior living in a Yard dormitory writes: "My impression is that the number of total abstainers taken through the four years in college is about 1 per cent.

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