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Chaos Theories: OU festgoers conform to expectations

With the passage of High Fest, an activity for which Ohio University has always been famous — or at times, infamous — is receiving more attention than usual: drinking and partying.  

The fests, which attract thousands of students every year, provide prime settings for wild and rambunctious behavior that challenges even Halloween festivities.  

Arrests rise, couches mysteriously disappear from apartments and end up burning in the middle of streets, and beer flows knee deep, all for the sake of an alleged “good time.”  

By now, people so naturally accept these activities as inherent to spring in Athens that it is worthwhile to take a step back from the situation and ask the following: What truly lies at the heart of the fests?

The answer is that they are simply an upgrade of the usual weekend parties that occur throughout town, and therefore, the attitudes that lay at the heart of both are the same.  Such a response, though generally true, opens up a plethora of other questions; for instance, why do people participate in these gatherings in the first place, and what are the larger implications?

One main reason is conformity.  People often expect our students to be heavier partiers. Remember the last time you told someone you went to Ohio University and they said, “Oh, the party school?”  

Social psychology’s role theory explains that most everyday activities are simply the result of imposed roles that others define for us.  

People say to us, “You’re an OU student?  Well, of course you must be a partier.”  We simply act out the role.  Without this social pressure, it is safe to say that a lot of those who participate in fests and parties would spend their weekends going to plays or relaxing with a movie instead of sleeping off hangovers.

Although the idea that many of our actions are determined by other people is frightening enough, the wider implications for these actions may be even greater. 

Heavy drinking is generally a very self-centered and overindulgent activity — not to say that there aren’t different degrees of this attitude, just as there are different degrees of partying, but the root cause is still the same.  

Because of consumerist practices, among other reasons, the United States is becoming more self-centered and overindulgent as a whole.  

We are encouraged to look out for ourselves before others, volunteer so it looks good on our own resumes and constantly treat ourselves to ephemeral pleasures; drinking and partying is only a result of this wider attitude.  

The effects, then, are more than just the obvious short- and long-term health hazards but also include the risk of permanently damaging character, outlook and perspective.

So, next time you feel the urge, drink on that.

Allison Hight is a sophomore studying English and a columnist for The Post. Are you a fester? Email Allison at


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