Spring break is notorious for many things, excessive drinking and partying being at the top of the list. Typically, it is also accompanied by rowdy behavior, illegal drug use and other forms of crime.
In response to issues of criminal activity, sexual assault and excessive drinking, several popular spring break locations have banned alcohol on their beaches specifically for the month of spring break. While the ban has been effective, it only really addresses the issue of overcrowding, rather than crimes and illegal activity.
Panama City Beach, Florida — one of the most popular destinations for college students — voted to ban alcohol on beaches during spring break dates in 2016, after a particularly dangerous set of incidents in 2015, including the gang rape of an unconscious woman and a shooting that left seven people injured. Once the ban was imposed they saw a significant decrease in crowds as compared to previous years, so much so that businesses in the area saw an 80 percent loss in revenues. The law will be enforced again this year, and other cities have followed suit, such as Gulf Shores.
While these restrictions are effective and come with good intentions, they aren’t actually solving the underlying reasons for these crimes. An alcohol ban doesn’t stop college students from drinking and committing crimes — they just continue to do so elsewhere. While authorities may use these restrictions as an immediate solution, it will take more than a ban on booze to stop such incidents from taking place.
Though it is not directly the university’s responsibility, sexual assault and binge drinking are problems almost all colleges have to deal with and address on a regular basis. Spring break activities are common knowledge, and universities have the resources to be proactive in educating their students about how to take care of themselves and be responsible, and it would be efficient for universities to initiate a spring break-related conversation with students in the weeks before break.
This week University Health Services has been handing out Safe Spring Break kits — but instead of handing out coupons and freebies, they should be talking to students about how to take care of not just themselves, but others as well. Some universities have implemented awareness weeks, holding workshops to engage with students about different aspects of safety. Programs like these are likely to be effective as they directly address students, especially for universities in close proximity of popular spring break destinations.
Local authorities can also implement similar local programs that are aimed toward visiting college students. Rather than simply saying “don’t drink,” authorities can have a more explanatory set of rules and advice for students to follow: How much can your body handle? What are the signs that you’ve drank too much and should take a break? What are the consequences? What should you do if you see someone who needs help?
The reality is that spring break is part of college culture, and for students it’s a way to take a break from their everyday routines. Just because it isn’t happening on one beach, doesn’t mean it’s not happening on another. Rather than enforcing laws that simply send students elsewhere, both universities and local authorities should work towards programs and actions to increase awareness among students as how they can enjoy their break safely. Though this may not immediately stop all incidents of crime and assault, it is a start to dealing with the issues not just in one area, but as a whole.
Agha is a public relations junior from Karachi, Pakistan. Follow her on Twitter @alinaagha96.