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The Carletonian

The Substance Divide: Do Sub-Free and Non-Sub-Free Carls Mingle?

<se communities often splinter into various sub-groups based on differing characteristics and preferences. Carleton is no exception to this, according to those who believe that a distinct sub-free community exists on campus.

The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that four out of five students consume alcohol during college. Of course, this statistic is somewhat misleading in that it does not consider the frequency of consumption or the amount consumed; neither does it recognize, as Zach Mitchell ‘16 phrased it, the “spectrum of groups” that exist between the sub-free and non-sub free contingents.

Still, these inadequacies aside, it raises the question: is there a divide between those contingents, between the four non-sub-free students and the one-sub-free? Or, to tailor the question to Carleton: does the Wednesday-night Crack House crowd ever mingle with the Knight-life frequenters?

“In some respects, there are certain sub-free groups that divide themselves from non-sub free campus by choice and vice versa,” said Mitchell. “Most of campus is integrated…there are many groups that are mixed, but I still sense a slight divide at times.”

Drinking ostensibly plays an important part in many Carleton students’ social lives. Geoffrey Goddard ‘14 feels that drinking “is not unhealthy,” but instead “is fun in moderation and enjoyable” and is “probably a good and healthy part of my life at Carleton.”

From a non-sub free student’s perspective, the divide exists perhaps because, as Goddard said, “substance free folks are being a little-moralistic with themselves.”

Claire Kelloway ‘16, who lived on a sub-free floor her freshman year, commented that sub-free students sometimes “judge ‘users’ as taking school less seriously. I do not think this is right, and last year on my floor some students were a bit insular about the floor community and blanketed students who drank as disruptive and belligerent.”

Of course, the sense of being judged can go both ways. An anonymous sub-free student said that, “because I don’t drink, I get uncomfortable if I attend friends’ parties and don’t tend to stay long.”

This sense of discomfort may explain why, according to Anna Chance ‘15, “sub-free students tend to end up at similar events and so know each other better,” which may isolate the group and naturally contribute to the division.

Indeed, the divide may be more related to participation in certain events than in the actual distinction between sub-free and not; another anonymous student clarified that “The wet and dry regularly mix at parties and other weekend events at which the avowed purpose is not intoxication. It is rather at those events, such as Crack House, strip & flip, and other drinking centered events that mixing is more rare.”

Mitchell added as well that there are poles of drinking extremes, and “certain groups on campus that encourage and/or reinforce this divide and they need to realize that all they are creating is internal division that goes against the building of community.”

The fact remains that, like most colleges, drinking is prevalent at Carleton. Goddard remarked that some Carls “do drink excessively” and that “this is a problem.” But most students also felt, Goddard included, that while Carls do drink a lot, they definitely do not drink more than students at other colleges. And these sentiments about the division between sub-free and non-sub-free students aside, most students are very tolerant of each other’s choices, which is certainly not the case at many schools.

“I never felt judged for living on a sub-free floor and I never felt excluded by non-sub free students, most people around me were friends with both kinds of users and moved through groups fluidly regardless of whether or not they drank,” reflected Kelloway. “The only difference between being sub-free and not is I go to less SUMO screenings.”

The existence of a division, in short, does not necessarily mean that one group or the other is being disrespected. Many non-sub-free Carls, moreover, were sub-free in high-school, and therefore can understand both choices. Realistically, social groups form on a variety of bases and manage to coexist on campus, whether or not they actively interact with each other, because as Chance concluded, “Everyone has their own lifestyles” and Carls “try to respect that about each other.”

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