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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

“Progressive” Culture on Campus

<ogressives. The student handbook says they’re prohibited, lumping them together with other “high-risk alcohol-related activities” including “drinking theme parties, drinking games, beer bongs, and similar behaviors.” College policy and what actually goes on are two different things, however.

As a first-year student, my impressions of drinking culture on campus are inextricably linked to progressives. A weekend at Carleton inevitably means I’ll hear about stories from the progressive that happened the other night.

For those of you who prefer to spend your weekend evenings in the Libe, let me clarify what a progressive is. A CarlWiki on Progressives explains, “A Progressive is a party that takes place in multiple rooms or locations on or off campus. A different food and/or drink, usually but not always alcoholic, is served at each location. When a party has “run its course” at one location, someone yells “Pro-gress!” At this point, everyone moves to the next location.”

For students, there are many benefits to progressives as opposed to static parties. Emily*, a senior who wished to remain anonymous, told me, “Progressives are great! They help people share the responsibility, planning, and cost of parties. It lets you see different parts of campus and different peoples’ rooms.  It’s fun traveling as a group and talking with different people. You don’t pester one floor or room or house or set of roommates for too long. Progressives help keep people engaged in parties and are also very inclusive. They break up the monotony of static parties.”

Progressives also allow Carls to get creative with parties. “People can take ownership of their stop. Theme progressives are great too when people get into having themed costumes, decorations, drinks, and snacks. Progressives are a great way for teams, study abroad groups, floors, organizations, or friends to get back together. They can take different forms too – floor snackgressives, streakingressive, or the campus foodgressive,” said Emily.

One thing is clear: from the student perspective, progressives are a positive aspect of the social life here at Carleton—and something that one would be hard-pressed to find at other institutions. A quick poll of acquaintances at St. Olaf and Amherst about the existence of progressives on their campuses yielded confused responses. While party hopping with friends happens, the idea of an organized “progressive” is foreign. Balczewski said, “Some of my favorite memories out have been with progressives. Friends at other colleges have schools with stricter drinking policies, less sense of community, and more secret, static parties.”

When asked whether she knew about the progressive culture before coming to Carleton, Emily responded, “No, I had never heard of it before but quickly learned…I was surprised to learn that they aren’t a thing at other schools because they’re just so much better than static parties! I think a lot of credit for progressives being able to happen is due to Carleton’s wet campus and standards that promote safe drinking.”

To gain a sense of the Res Life perspective on progressives, I contacted Patrick Gordon, Area Director for Myers and Nourse Halls and Co-Coordinator of the Student Wellness Advocate Program, who is in his third year at Carleton.

Gordon said he “had never heard the term ‘progressives’ in relationship to parties until [he] came to Carleton, “ adding, “The notion of going to and from 2-3 parties over the course of an evening had existed with students when I was in college as well as other institutions that I had worked at previously.  The bar/pub crawl atmosphere has also existed at two other campuses where I have worked previously, although it usually is coordinated by an off-campus bar venue(s) as opposed to being on-campus.”

As to what makes progressives a “high-risk” activity, Gordon notes that they often result in a “higher level of binge drinking, which can carry a higher health risk. In particular, hard alcohol tends to be a strong component that contributes to high-risk drinking, especially if drinks are not properly measured. If the progressive does not have food available as part of it, it can increase the health risk as well. From my experience, when a hospital transport occurs, it often is a result of several of these factors.”

Another potentially problematic factor is the external response progressives can elicit. “Northfield community members have called police due to noise complaints from progressives in the past. If students are walking to the next progressive location with a drink in hand, it could result in an underage consumption ticket if they encounter police,” said Gordon.

Gordon recalled that on the last day of classes last winter there was a large progressive that spread across different parts of campus and extended into the Northfield surrounding neighborhood.  There were noise complaints from students as well as from community members.  Several police cars arrived on campus and were patrolling the neighborhood and campus.

So when does it become necessary to intervene? For Gordon, “whether it is an RA, an Area Director, or Security – if a progressive is disturbing a community on campus, it will most likely be addressed by confronting the issues it is causing – i.e. noise, alcohol in common spaces, safety concerns, and other violations of community standards.  Anytime there is a community disturbance or a disrespect/neglect to follow community standards, it is appropriate for a staff member to confront the situation and work with those present to ensure it is addressed.”

When staff members do have to intervene, said Gordon, “students involved will meet with an Area Director, Class Dean, or the Director of Residential Life.  Consequences depend on the situation and what previous situations have occurred for each student/community.”

On the whole, it seems that many of the issues that arise from progressives can be tempered by responsible practices, which may come with age and experience. When asked to reflect on how her habits have changed since the beginning of her college career, Emily said, “Partying is less novel now than it was then. Your priorities shift and so do your interests a bit. I’ve definitely mellowed out since freshman year. I’ve also learned balance and now enjoy a nice beer with dinner, or classy wine night with friends, or going out and not getting smashed every weekend.”

Another perk of seniority when it comes to partying on campus? Getting to plan progressives. Emily told me, “I used to go on them but now I lead and plan them too…it’s fun having more control over planning but in a way more stressful too. I like chill nights but if I want to go out and see friends, teammates, classmates, study abroad friends, freshman year friends, etc., progressives are a fun way to do that.” 

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