Party once, shame on you; party twice, still shame on you

| Staff Writer

Scrolling through social media, I’m seeing a relatively new phenomenon pop up: pictures of people at bars and big parties, masks off and arms encircling their similarly mask-less friends. Confused, I checked the comment sections underneath the photos: heart-eye emojis, ‘omg so cute…’ and no trace of the righteous indignation that surrounded these super-spreader events just a few months back. Even more blatant are the Snapchat stories that advertise these gatherings, complete with links to an Eventbrite website with ticket sales.

‘Maybe,’ I think, ‘they’ve all been vaccinated.’ The CDC did just come out with new guidance that allows fully vaccinated adults to gather, mask-less, in small groups. But no—hardly a fraction of college-aged kids have received the vaccine this early and the online advertisements for the parties mention nothing about immunity being required.

So here’s my question: When did it become okay to go out again? How did the Washington University student culture shift so dramatically from shaming to apathy, even encouragement towards those who choose to risk public health to party hard? I’m not just being petty here—I’m genuinely puzzled.

In an NPR article from the beginning of the year, administrators and students shifted blame back and forth. Is it simply in a college kid’s DNA that they have to go out and drink at bars and fraternity parties? Did administrators “tempt fate” by allowing everyone back on campus this semester? I believe the answer lies somewhere in between, in the gray area of cultural norms.

I don’t think that college kids are programmed to party. I don’t think the administration made an irresponsible choice in bringing kids back on campus. I do think, however, that young adults are likely to test boundaries and push past limits set by those in authority. They’re also finely tuned to the criticism and approval from their peers. Simply put, college kids are partying because other college kids have decided it’s okay, or are too afraid to push back when they see it happening.

I get it—it’s not easy to criticize someone’s Friday night activity, and I think everyone is at least a little scared of the social repercussions of becoming known as a snitch. Yet countless people I’ve talked with confided that they were uncomfortable when friends went to bars, or were actively avoiding those who acted recklessly over the past weekend.

Others referenced grandparents that they wanted to keep safe, immunocompromised friends or were simply terrified for their own health. I, for one, am petrified at the idea of going back into isolation housing, a place I resided in for Thanksgiving last semester. Believe me, you could go from sipping a cocktail at a bar to drinking dozens of isolation-famous boxed waters real fast.

Let’s bring back a little bit of the early-pandemic shame that was attached to attending or throwing massive parties or bar-hopping. We’re all sick and tired of having this half-college experience, but as a community, I believe in our ability to hold on just a little longer.

If you’re participating in college culture, I hope the knowledge that other students are scared and judgmental will slow you down a little. Even if people aren’t telling it to your face, a murmur of indignation has been running through campus.

And if you’re a friend of someone who’s been off celebrating “tiki Thursday,” I’d advise setting aside your poker face and expressing that you’re upset. Tell them why you’re ignoring their invitations to lunch, or if you’re brave, approach them directly to confess that you’re uncomfortable. To roughly quote High School Musical, we’re all in this together, so please don’t mess it up.

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