“You honk, we drink.”
To drivers, pedestrians and cyclists traveling in traffic along Montezuma Road in late August, the sign seemed out of place, yet very much at home.
This is because his message paved the way for the arrival of San Diego State University students on campus for the 2021-22 school year.
Many people sped past the sign without blinking. And who could blame them? In a society where alcohol consumption is considered a traditional rite of passage, what could be more synonymous with university life than drinking?
But for me, an SDSU graduate and community organizer with Youth social defenders, the message hit me like a punch in the stomach. How could this sign define the college journey that I and countless other young adults began when we first arrived on campus, ready to learn, excited to meet new friends and to live new experiences?
It’s insulting, I told myself.
Insulting but not surprising. San Diego State University, as well as the University of California at San Diego, are ranked among the Top 50 American Colleges With The Biggest Drinking Problems.
As a college graduate and substance use prevention advocate, I understand the prevalence of binge drinking and underage on college campuses. Roughly 80% of college students – four in five – drink some alcohol. It is estimated that 50% of these students drink excessively, which means that they drink alcohol to the point of getting drunk..
But just recognizing binge drinking as a problem on college campuses isn’t rocket science. Instead, I wondered how SDSU officials allowed this sign to become a welcome mat for the college, as well as another offensive sign that popped up near campus that same week. Scheduled to welcome parents arriving on campus with their children, the Delta Chi fraternity hung a banner outside their home that read: “Daughter Drop Off Center.”
Furious at these disturbing optics, my thoughts turned to the teens I have mentored over the years. A handful made the jump from high school to college this fall. I can relate to their experience as teenagers growing up in City Heights and attending Hoover and Crawford High Schools together.
Our shared love for our community and our passion to make a difference have inspired us all to take collective action as members of Advocates for change today a coalition of youth committed to promoting substance abuse prevention and improving the health and safety of neighborhoods in the Mid-City area of San Diego.
“How would they feel if they encountered this sign?” ” I asked myself. “Would his message also fill them with anger and disappointment?” I remembered my hope of being welcomed into a new circle of friends during my freshman year, when I was taken off social media in my hometown of City Heights.
I wondered if “You Honk, We Drink” had the power to undo what inspired a generation of teenagers to join ACT in the first place. Our vision was to build a healthy and resilient City Heights from the inside out and from the bottom up.
The sign “You Honk, We Drink” is gone now. But the problem of binge drinking at SDSU remains. Any hope of shedding its party school image will depend on the university’s commitment to confronting the damaging stereotypes that support its culture of college drinking and lessen the impact of SDSU’s academic mission. .
Rocio Hernandez is a community organizer with SAY San Diego. She grew up in City Heights. As a teenager, Hernandez was one of the founding organizers of the Latino Youth Council, known today as Advocates for Change Today.