Alcohol, academia and absurdity

Food wrappers and empty containers litter the kitchen island of 1019 S. Franklin Street. A growler of Cowcatcher Red Ale, brewed locally at Mountaintown Station in Mount Pleasant serves as the centerpiece.

Jesse Bauer, a 20-year-old Livonia junior, takes a sip from his hexagonal glass between Yahtzee throws.

“If I don’t win, I just do this,” he said, scribbling out the entire column of his score sheet, obliterating his first game’s poor performance. “Because I don’t live in the past,” Bauer quips.

He scoops up the dice and slides them into the plastic container. It’s a Thursday night, and Bauer and his roommates are spending the evening indoors, playing board games, a changeup from their normal routine.

Generally, Bauer and his roommates, Austin Bumpus, Angelo Dorazio, Joe Robinson and Trevor Lipsky, all of whom attend Central Michigan University, hit the bar scene in downtown Mount Pleasant on Thursdays. Tonight, they chose to kick back and have a “family game night,” as a few of them have obligations to attain to in the morning.

“The bars downtown have good deals and specials (on Thursdays), and a lot of us don’t have class the next day. So, it marks the end of the week for a lot of us,” said Joe Robinson, a 21-year-old Mount Pleasant native.

Robinson has experienced CMU’s party scene since he was in high school. Growing up down the street from the university, Robinson’s sister attended CMU, which ultimately led to him following her footsteps.

“I would come visit (campus). Being from here, obviously you know about the party scene. It was a lot of fun. I started getting up here my senior year in high school. After I turned 18, that was the first time I came to campus and went out with my sister. It was sick as f—,” Robinson said.

CMU students split on ‘mild’ or ‘wild’

The party scene at CMU is not exactly a secret. An unscientific survey conducted at CMU revealed that slightly over 90 percent of students responding to the online questionnaire acknowledged an existing “party scene.” About four in 10 students rated the party scene as “wild,” and nearly half reported partying at Michigan’s fourth largest university as “mild.”

“Fire Up Chips” is to CMU what “Roll Tide” is to Alabama, and often, it can be heard chanted drunkenly by the student body during tailgates and weekend parties. To many students here, a party culture exists along with its resulting reputation.

Millennial reign

According to the  National Center for Education Statistics, in 2012, the 18- to 24-year-old population reached 31.4 million people, up from 27.3 million in 2000. Along with that, the percentage of those enrolled in college increased from 35.5 percent in 2000 to 41 percent in 2012. A White House study released last October found that millennials (people born in between 1980 and 2000) make up one-third of the country’s population. They totaled about 74.8 million people in 2014, and are expected to continue rising until 2036, according to Pew Research.

There are nearly 75 million young adults, and 41 percent are enrolled in college. This means a generation raised on MTV’s Spring Break is now prevalent in college, which has given way to dozens of videos/events sponsored by ImShmacked,  whose dozens of YouTube videos claim over a million views.

Who parties the hardest? Not CMU…

The party reputations that some universities maintain have thrust those schools into an unwanted spotlight. For example, when Ohio University took the top party school honor in 2011, the Dean of Students Ryan Lombardi released a statement expressing his dismay.

Each fall, the Webiverse chatters about the “top party schools” in the country. Although multiple lists exist, the one most responsible for this seasonal gossip is published by the Princeton Review.

Founded in 1981 and first published in 1992, The Princeton Review is an online resource for test taking/preparation and also a tool for researching colleges. Though releasing statistics covering over 60 categories, such as Best Library, Best Campus Food, etc., a popular list is its annual ranking of the nation’s top party schools.

The Princeton Review is joined by other sites/publications, such as,, Newsweek or Playboy. Each has a relatively similar methodology in the rankings of party schools.

Then there is

BroBible, founded in 2008, is a blog/magazine and “the ultimate destination for Bros, offering top-notch entertainment and a one-stop hub to keep up with the latest news and trends, seek advice, share exploits, and relish in the glory of being a Bro.”

In 2013, BroBible published its first best party schools list with a different method of ranking. Whereas The Princeton Review and Colleges.Niche rely on unscientific surveys to supply their data, BroBible has attempted to insert a bit of science.

Using what they call a “BCS system,” BroBible attributed points to schools based on their recurrence on the PrincetonReview, Playboy, FiestaFrog lists, as well as any school considered an “I’m Shmacked” school, or any school with a dominant athletic program. After the points are tallied, the schools with the most points rank highest, and in 2013, BroBible released a top-50 list, whereas most of the other more well-known publications don’t release more than 20.

While students from Michigan universities might say otherwise, the state’s schools rarely graced the party school list. Within the past 10 years, no Michigan college has made the list. CMU’s only moment of braggadocio was in 1987 when it was ranked No. 16 on Playboy’s top 40 party schools. Michigan State and the University of Michigan made the top 20 a few times within the past decades, but not nearly as often as schools such as Ohio University or West Virginia University, where local officials recently installed a citywide ban on outdoor furniture after a decade of couch burning.

Stats and crime

Partying is generally equated with alcohol, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that four in five college students drink alcohol, and two of those four consume via binge drinking. Findings from a 2012 study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration confirmed this, reporting that 40.1 percent of all college students 18 to 22 years of age were binge drinkers.

Since 1992, each university across the nation has to submit an annual security report, essentially a breakdown of various crime across campus. The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act was signed in 1990 and named after Jeanne Clery, a Lehigh University freshman who was raped and murdered in her campus residence hall in 1986.

Crime statistics help breakdown the presence of a party culture. For example, a university such as WVU, an NCAA Division I school with over 30,000 students, has been in the Princeton Review top party school list for each of the last 10 years, and in eight of those, the Mountaineers were in the top five.

According to WVU’s Clery Reports, the school had 3,245 total citations for alcohol (whether a “liquor arrest” or a “liquor referral,” the former of which is harsher) in 2012, the same year the school was named top party school by Princeton Review. That means 10 percent of the student body was handed citations for alcohol consumption/possession.

Compare that with Michigan State University, located in East Lansing. MSU is also Division 1, but boasts over 50,000 students as of this past fall. In the same year that WVU cited over 3,000  students, MSU only handed out 2,302.

So, how does CMU compare? In the same year, 2012, CMU, also a Division 1 school, handed out 481 total alcohol citations, with a student body of just over 20,000 thousand.

There is no way to empirically connect the number of citations with the sheer volume of alcohol-infused campus partying, but the anecdotal evidence appears to suggest a connection.

Casual Thursday with Yahtzee and craft beer

Not, however, to Angelo Dorazio, a 21-year-old Livonia junior at CMU. Citations, he said, say more about the savviness of students than about the depth of partying. He said the party scene just shifts depending on the day. Generally, Thursdays provide a colorful and crowded bar scene because of the specials offered by the downtown bars.

“Parties are on Saturday. Party on Saturday because you can’t party the next day,” he said.

Dorazio is a transfer student, but he has been attending CMU for the last two years, living with the same fellows he did when he originally moved, the same group playing a torrid game of Yahtzee.  A second game has began, and Bauer echoes his quip after the first, “Because I don’t live in the past!”

Though all the Franklin Street boys are in the process of turning 21 this year, they have been submerged in the party culture ever since they moved out of the dorms to Main Street during their sophomore year.

Main Street is the party hot spot at CMU. Sure, parties exist elsewhere, further off campus, but Main is where a majority of the fraternity and sorority houses are located, as well as many other duplexes which house students. On any given weekend, there is sure to be something happening.

“You can’t go wrong with Main Street, ever,” says Dorazio before he is interrupted by Robinson.

“Last Welcome Weekend, (the police) barricaded Main Street. They shut down the street when it gets to a certain point, the police department will, but that was mainly last year, when we were at the forefront of it all.”

Main Street is generally where the most house parties happen. During a typical [non-winter] weekend after 10 p.m., when school is in session, a passerby would see massive mobs of people, migrating from front lawn to front lawn, red Solo cups, beer bottles/cans/caps littering the way. If the mob grows large and nuisance enough, the police will come through and break things up, send everyone in separate directions to, at least, temporarily relieve the situation.

“There were multiple occasions where I would look at my roommates and say, ‘We have no control.’ There would be like four of us, in four different corners of a room, and we’d just look at each other like [shrugs] ‘We gotta wait a couple hours until it clears out.’”

When asked to sum up their sophomore stay on Main Street, the Franklin Boys fire off, speaking all at once:

“Sick as f—.”

“Best time of my life probably.”

“Just madness.”

“It was sick as f—.”

“Every single weekend.”

Austin Bumpus, a 20 year old Livonia junior explained that after a few big parties, they never had to make plans again.

“We developed a reputation where people would walk in out of nowhere.”

Now, a year later on Franklin Street, the boys said that they no longer have the party problem. They are able to host pre-games comfortably, without a herd of strangers stamping through. They’ve come to enjoy the easier-going side of the party scene, especially when it comes to clean-up, but the boys still love to reminisce about the madness on Main.

“There will never be a time in my life where I’ll have that feeling when you’re in your own home and you look at your roommates,” Robinson said, “and you both know: you don’t have control of your own house anymore. You just got to ride out the storm.”