Graduating early should not translate to exclusion

Student explains how age and health reasons limit participation in senior-year traditions 

Leighnah Perkins

When you picture your senior year here at Ursinus, aside from the idea of almost being done with college, you probably think of time-honored traditions like the senior Halloween party, the 100 Days until Graduation Open Bar, and the champagne toast. They’re something to look forward to during your three years leading up to the last. Now, imagine you don’t get to participate in any of those things, despite being a senior.

I’m graduating a year early (I originally was part of the class of 2018) and with a birthday in July I was already young for the class of 2018. I won’t be of legal drinking age until after graduation. As a result, I am missing out on all kinds of traditions that seniors normally get to attend due to them being in bars.

Obviously, for lack of better words, this sucks.

The idea that I’m not able to attend any of these “milestones” of this last year makes me feel left out over something I can’t even control. My experience has lead me to believe that Ursinus community and student body should introduce other traditions in addition to those that take place in bars in order to include everyone, whether they’re 21 or not.

Some of you might be thinking, “Well it was your choice to graduate early and part of doing so means sacrificing parts of the college experience.” Yet why should anyone have to miss out on traditions just because they’re finishing a year or a semester early? We all know that the costs of higher education are ridiculously high, with College Board reporting that the average private university costs $33,480 for one year.

As a result, graduating early is just going to become increasingly more common. In fact, in a USA Today College article, Rachel Rossenbaum reported that the number of students at Duke University that graduated early had gone up 30 percent between 2010 and 2014. Duke is not the only school where this could possibly be happening.

With Ursinus’ culture of forging your own path through the creation of your own major, pursuing double majors, and so on, the community should also begin being accommodating toward those students who graduate early. This involves making new traditions for those under 21.

Aside from being of age, I can’t help but wonder if the traditions UC currently has are alienating to those who don’t like to drink or even those who might have a health condition or an addiction to alcohol that could prevent them from being involved. In fact, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism revealed that around 20 percent of college students match the description of an alcoholic.

It’s really not fair to set every tradition around something people might not be able to enjoy or something that could be detrimental to their recovery. How is it okay to ask people with health issues to just isolate themselves from the goings on?

The idea of all of these alcohol- based events also says something about our culture here at Ursinus. Drinking has been a tradition on college campuses for ages. That’s nothing new and will likely never change—who doesn’t love a good party? That’s not the problem with this situation.

Yet it seems at Ursinus that there’s a clear emphasis put on drinking and its value in our social lives that is somewhat detrimental. On campus our alcohol policies facilitate a more inclusive environment, but once you go off campus if you’re under 21 you’re left out. If you don’t (or can’t) drink then you’re left out. This does not only include being left out of parties or going out on Saturday nights, but also being left out of special traditions.

I want to make it clear that the issue here is not drinking, parties or having fun. The issue is that those who can’t or don’t drink are simply left out of some special events that make senior year, well, senior year.

Perhaps there could be two celebrations for each special event, including one that students of all ages and health statuses can attend and enjoy. The bottom line is that every Ursinus senior, regardless of their age, graduation year, or health condition, should be able to celebrate a really important milestone in their life with their classmates.

Leighnah Perkins is a senior media and communication studies major and is minoring in creative writing. She is also the social media editor for The Grizzly. 

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