Why I So Passionately Fear Binge Drinking

4 Oct

Why I So Passionately Fear Binge Drinking

Last week, I came under heavy media attacks over my choice of rhetoric on a complex issue to which I sought to bring attention. The attacks were drawn not so much by my actual observations—with which many of my critics found some merit—but by the piece’s jarring title, startling photo, and male-centric perspective. It all ended up being misunderstood as blatant gender bias, overshadowing the important message. So why did I stick my neck out like this? Here is why.

Thirteen years ago, the day before my son was supposed to come home for Christmas during his senior year at Stanford, my wife and I got a call from the emergency room telling us he was gone. The pain from the loss of a child is unimaginable to anyone that hasn’t experienced it. As hard as you might strive to conquer it, it leaves an anger in your heart that sometimes comes out in ways that are difficult to control.

My son made a foolish risk-reward decision in an attempt to have some fun, a decision that ended his life and sent mine spinning out of control. After my first marriage broke up and I moved back to Boston, lifelong friends I had made through my fraternity at MIT—men of upstanding character spanning five decades in age—helped me put my life back together. I would not have made it without them.

I have spent the last 12 years trying to repay that debt to the organization that brought us together, chairing a capital campaign that raised $1.6 million to refurbish our national historic landmark chapter house, and serving on my house corporation board. Today, as president of that board, I share responsibility for the well-being of 40 young men—good kids, with no resemblance to the Animal House stereotype. And yet, whenever they host a party I go to bed terrified.

The reason I go to bed terrified is that our country’s drinking laws are misguided, counterproductive, and the source of serious unintended consequences. These laws have not and will not stop teenagers from drinking. To the contrary, these laws and the college regulations designed to enforce them have transformed drinking into a potentially deadly ritual. I have seen young men take multiple shots of whiskey without pause and 100-pound young women chug half a bottle of vodka (a practice called pre-gaming) while waiting in line for a party where they know they will not be served alcohol because they have not yet reached their 21st birthday. This is repeated nationwide, every week, everywhere and will continue as long as our misguided laws remain on the books.

Every year, the problem gets worse. The campus counsels and committees and endless discussions I have participated in are well meaning but I believe still leave many young people at risk. The deans who run these committees do not have the power to change the law, and have their hands tied when it comes to recommending practical policies designed to make underage drinking safe—because any drinking at all, no matter how moderate and measured, would run afoul of the law. The entire conversation is smothered by a culture of political correctness that makes you want to scream.

So, I screamed. My progressively frantic attempts to focus on the real problem have exacted a high personal cost. The backlash has unintentionally damaged those around me, an unintended consequence for which I am deeply sorry. But if I can help save one student’s life, and one parent from the anguish I live with, it will have been worth it.

Bill Frezza’s opinions are his own and not those of the many corporations, organizations, and not-for-profits with which he works. The text of the original column can be found here. STATEMENT: Sexual assault is a serious crime, for which the victim is never at fault. Those accused of sexual assault should be charged and tried in a court of law. If found guilty, they should serve long prison sentences.


12 Responses to “Why I So Passionately Fear Binge Drinking”

  1. Hapamom October 4, 2014 at 7:42 am #

    I’m perplexed why your original post generated such emotion. As a mother of two girls and a boy I am constantly concerned about how I will prepare them for the many dangers of college. Your description of how men need to be wary of women while at college reflects the conversation I’ve been practicing in my head to have with my son when he is ready for college. I have read too many accounts of men accused of rape that read like accounts of spurned lovers or regretful girls. Your advice and rules for your fraternity house sound sage to me and reflect reality. Not sure where people see gender bias in your article. Not all women are righteous which is something that may have been lost in today’s feminism.

  2. Jock Gill October 4, 2014 at 8:38 am #


    I am 100% with you on the binge drinking issue. Good on you for bringing it up. So very sorry to learn the cause of your frustrations. It strikes me you are on the cusp of looking at too many well intended regulations that are too often counter productive. There is tremendous power exerted to enforce conformity with the dominant narrative. Of course this also extends to student peer group pressure enforcing participation in the very thing you object to. Narly problem.



    Jock Gill P.O. Box 3 Peacham, VT 05862

    Cell: (617) 449-8111


    :> Extract CO2 from the atmosphere!

  3. Bryan Dumont October 4, 2014 at 8:40 am #

    When I was MUCH, MUCH younger, Massachusetts in a brief moment of sanity lowered the drinking age from 21 to 18. Did the rate of “drunks” spike?…No, Did the world end? Nope., There I was..one moment before I had to wait to 21 to not sneak a beer and be a scofflaw…Then the next day wham…the State allowed me to be an “adult” (Confusing to say the least since I had already enlisted to serve my country, had a credit card, and was making payments on my first automobile.) now with the swipe of a pen I was instantly “smart enough” to have a beer in public! Did I go insane, drink 48 beers and throw up on my shoes, wake up next to someone I didn’t know, participate in gang rape..Nope nothing.. I seem to remember waking up the next morning with a dull headache and the blahs, Other than that, nothing changed.. As quickly as the 18 year old drinking age was instituted, with a change in politics and the beginning of the nanny state..whammo it went back up to 21…us tweeners we of course grandfathered.
    To this day I firmly believe this is the fault of the nanny state (Insert Progressive Democrats) whose goal it seems is to insert themselves in every facet of our lives, generally screwing up everything with one touch, but because “they care” they are forgiven and excused. They and their ilk think with emotion and never logic.
    Much the same here…What my friend wrote is the absolute truth, you put a young lady, with too much boo’s, weed or pick the intoxicant of choice, in a room with sober or inebriated testosterone loaded teen members of the opposite sex.. Nothing, repeat nothing good will come of it.
    It is pure folly to think for a moment a young adult away from home is not going to experiment with the “forbidden” it is as natural as the changing of seasons. There is absolutely nothing the PC nanny staters can do, other than to wrap their young doll, or next young NBA star in a bubble and lock them away until this passes, but it never will. And the more you make the consumption of intoxicants a forbidden treasure, the more you have invited its use, as to go against “The Man” is still cool.
    Those lashing out are not at all concerned with what Bill said or how he said it…it is purely that he had the shear testicular fortitude to say it. Bill is doing what others won’t, he is trying to watch out for the “charges” given him, That he dare say drunk “ladies” in an all male dorm is a problem, goes against the political correct sentiment that all male youth must leave their penis at home, locked up before they go off to college or anywhere for that matter, because the PC police know it is the male penis that causes all the problems in society. A “lady” loaded with the drink of choice showing all that god gave her, is NEVER the problem.
    I sincerely hope Mr. Freeza does not bend over to these left wing (or extreme right wing) life controlling thought police. They believe the 1st amendment only applies to them and their warrantless attacks on others. Free speech to them is fine as long as the speech goes along with their thoughts. Bill pointed out a real problem and the attacks begin. A friend of mine, a campus officer tells me stories that make me glad I have no children (my choice) to worry over. Why don’t some of these thought police spend an evening with Bill, patrolling MIT and get a look at what goes on in and outside of fraternities, after one weekend I suspect these extreme haters would find a real problem to tackle. But alas they won’t, it’s much easier to attack from the privacy of their darkened basement, or lofty offices, away from the rabble and proclaim all the they perceive wrong with the world…which is always anyone who does not agree with them!

  4. Adam Kissel October 4, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

    I hope such efforts rejuvenate the Amethyst Initiative, in which “presidents and chancellors call upon elected officials to weigh all the consequences of current alcohol policies and to invite new ideas on how best to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol use” (see http://www.theamethystinitiative.org/).

  5. Joanne Forbes October 4, 2014 at 6:50 pm #

    Absolutely correct! I applaud you for your efforts to highlight a serious problem. In the late seventies I succeeded a colleague as night nurse on call at an urban college. She had held that residential position for many years and assured me that she rarely was disturbed by the students living in the dorm. I accepted the position at the same time that alcohol was allowed in the dorms. Prior to that students could go drink on campus or off campus at age 18. Needless to say, my tenure as night nurse on call was characterized by multiple emergencies every night as drunken students passed out, experienced alcohol poisoning , fell down, got into violent altercations, etc , etc. Clearly the age when alcohol was legal wasn’t the pivot. I am convinced that at fault is a lack of adult authority and limit setting. The kids are in charge. I am enraged on your behalf that once again the children of this country prevail . The segment on CNN regarding your article about fraternities highlighted a response by a student as the reason for your firing. Really! I am so sick of political correctness! When are adults going to take back this country?

  6. Mary D. Brown October 4, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

    Bill Frezza, the media reaction to your Forbes Blog post is mind-boggling stupid.

    I read it. It seemed reasonable to me. How people can have taken this horrible “offense” to it I can not even understand.

    But then, by now, no one has seen your original Forbes post. All of the “cache Google” versions go nowhere. I only read your original post that you provided.

    I am glad that you stand by it. It is just common sense.

    And only in this post you wrote about your son, Bob, who died so young. Not stated, but I assume from some alcohol related incident. I am so sorry for your loss ….
    I have a 22 year old son. He goes to college but is not IN a college. Thank Goodness.

    But this reaction to your original post, I can barely comprehend it. People do not think, anymore. It is as if we are all now on the 24 hour news cycle. A person can be destroyed in a heartbeat, by the drumming of the “masses.”

    The same has been done to Ray Rice. One mistake, one unfortunate occurrence and his life is ruined. His job, taken away.

    I am reminded; Bread and circuses. Anything to distract the mindless from the real problems that we face; this crumbling economy and disintegration of the Middle Class.

    I stand with you, Bill Frezza. We have not always agreed, but you are right on this one.

  7. John Sack October 5, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

    . Bill,

    Thank you for your efforts on behalf of intellectual freedom, common sense, scientific problem solving, and evidence-based policymaking.

    Your original Forbes article was spot on the mark, but the feminist establishment seems to have vetoed your right to free expression. This betrays feminism’s intellectual dishonesty and intolerance. Despite all the rhetoric about “gender equality,” most feminist groups promote special treatment for women across a broad spectrum of legal and social circumstances. These groups not only shout down dissenting viewpoints, they vigorously suppress efforts merely to call attention to the double standards.

    But some of us do get it, Bill, and I hope you will continue to speak your mind.

    John Sack

  8. MRS T.LaVita October 5, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

    Keep up the great work Mr Frezza.You were right on with your article.

  9. MRS T.LaVita October 5, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

    Thanks Mr.Frezza

  10. lee October 6, 2014 at 3:49 pm #

    I stand with Bill Frezza. Your original Forbes post should be mandatory reading for every high school female.

  11. Free to Think April 14, 2015 at 3:19 pm #

    I have been researching media stories on the subject of college fraternities and stumbled upon this old Bill Frezza story. Unfortunately, Frezza overestimated the ability of Americans to think outside the box and consider the controversial topic from a different vantage point. He also underestimated the power of the politically correct movement: he dared to question the victimhood of drunk females and paid for it dearly. It infuriates me that he could be fired for simply making a thoughtful case for his own personal opinion, yet over at the Rolling Stone, a fabricated news story about a rape went completely unpunished. Not a single person was terminated despite the egregious lack of lack of fact-checking and journalistic integrity. Double standard? It doesn’t matter that an innocent fraternity house was indicted in an awful crime, all that matters is that you don’t insult the wrong people.

    Freetothinkblog.com, comment@freetothinkblog.com


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