The 100th Dakota Days are a time to celebrate and a time to party, a mentality alumni of the University of South Dakota said hasn’t changed.
President James Abbott was an undergraduate at USD from 1966 to 1970, and attended law school from 1971 to 1974. Abbott said that at a college homecoming, drinking is inevitable.
“When you have a party mentality, you have a bit of an alcohol mentality,” Abbott said. “The question is how can we control it so it’s appropriate.”
Sophomore Eric Krizan, a graphic design major, is selling D-Days T-shirts and crew necks this year. Krizan wanted to take advantage of the opportunity after seeing them sold last year.
Krizan said he has sold about 300 shirts and sweatshirts, and only has a few in each size left. T-shirts are $20 and crew necks are $35.
The front design says “One century of tradition.” Some have “100 years 100 beers” on the back, but others don’t.
“I wanted to appeal to everyone cause I know not everyone wants to show that,” Kirzan said. “I just thought it’d be a good idea to have both options that still kind of look the same.”
Krizan said he thinks the majority of students over 21 drink during D-Days, but he’s not sure about minors.
“I think there’s other things you can focus on,” he said.
With a large number of people in Vermillion to celebrate the university’s homecoming, the Vermillion Police Department prepares for the event by increasing staffing to better handle the increase in offense, a report written and prepared by Sgt. Jacy Nelsen stated.
According to the report, there were 160 calls for service from the Thursday to Sunday of D-Days in 2011. Data was not collected for 2012 or 2013. The University Police Department had minimal contact last year because D-Days and Hobo Days were during the same weekend, Lt. Jeff Rice said.
Abbott said in his time at USD, there was a significant amount of drinking. While freshmen and sophomores were more involved in the organized party scene at the time, Abbott doesn’t believe there’s been much of a change in the amount of drinking at USD.
But what has changed is the age of when people are able to legally consume alcohol. Abbott sees both sides to the legal drinking age conflict.
“I have never been absolutely convinced from a philosophical standpoint that you can be drafted to go to serve in a foreign war at 18 but you can’t legally buy an alcoholic beverage. I’ve always thought that’s kind of strange,” Abbott said. “On the other hand, I don’t think it’s any surprise that younger folks throughout the ages have kind of abused alcohol.”
Bush Fullerton graduated from USD in 1977 with a business degree. He was in a popular fraternity of the time, Sigma Nu, and was also in the student organization Dakotans, which was a mens’ social group on campus.
While he was at USD, 19-year-olds could drink 3.2 beers, which were named for their 3.2% alcohol content, and were allowed in bars.
The Minimum Drinking Age Act was introduced in 1984. If any state didn’t raise the drinking age to 21, 10% of its federal highway funds would be withheld.
Fullerton believes that because younger students could legally socialize at bars, it allowed them to mature quicker.
“It’s too bad we can’t do that today, but I understand the laws are the laws. I really think it was a benefit,” Fullerton said. “Looking back, I don’t think it was a bad thing.”
Fullerton said underage drinking was prevalent, though not as much as it is today.
“The off campus illegal drinking was not swept under the rug or anything like that, but if it was discreet it was tolerated,” Fullerton said.
USD instructor Jen Porter graduated from USD in 1993. Although she doesn’t have a firsthand experience of the lower drinking age, she believes raising it to 21 increases the risk of binge drinking in young people.
“I think when you put those age restrictions in it’s like you’re telling people they can’t have something, and they want it even more because they can’t have it,” Porter said.
Porter teaches in the health services administration program. Every semester, she and her students discuss binge drinking and other related behaviors.
“Students are open to say underage drinking still occurs, binge drinking does happen,” Porter said. “They attribute that to peer pressure, not having enough alternatives on campus, they attribute it to possibly even some mental health concerns.”
All alumni agree that Dakota Days was a week associated with partying and drinking while they were students.
“You would party pretty hardy on Thursday, and then Friday go to class and clean it up a little bit because your parents were around,” Fullerton said. “And then after the parade they’d leave, and then it was time to start partying again.”
Sophomore Christian Trevillyan has only experienced D-Days once, but said he thinks well over half of the student body drinks during the homecoming week.
“When the teachers tell you to come to class sober, I think that sums it up,” Trevillyan said.
The biggest difference in drinking culture from Abbott’s time until now is the attitude toward drinking and driving, he said.
“I don’t remember talking or thinking much about drinking and driving. We drank and got in our cars and went home. I hear kids talking all the time about designated drivers and I think it’s excellent,” Abbott said. “I don’t remember thinking about that. That’s been a real good movement with young people across the country.”
Abbott said he and his wife wake up at 2 a.m. most Fridays, Saturdays and sometimes Thursdays from USD students walking past their home.
“I am always entirely pleased to be waken up at that time because then I know the kids are walking. I’m really happy about that,” Abbott said. “If it were me, I would probably not be inclined to bother anybody who was walking. Because my view would be, if you’re going to drink, at least don’t drive.”
Fullerton said during his time as a student, police officers would only stop a driver who got in a wreck or was visibly swerving.
“Law enforcement was definitely less aggressive with their enforcement because they didn’t have that many tools to know what was going on. Now a days, they’re aggressively enforcement-minded,” Fullerton said. “I don’t have to be a kid to know that. It’s just a different mentality.”
Although Porter hasn’t seen as much of a change in law enforcement, she does believe current USD students are much more aware of the dangers that accompany drinking.
“What is nice to hear is that students really care about their friends. I think they want things to change, I feel like they think it could change if there were more alternatives on campus, but in the meantime they express a lot of caring towards their friends,” Porter said. “People are looking out for each other. And that’s a good thing.”
Abbott said there will be social issues no matter what the drinking age is. He believes the only way to remedy that is to make sure students are educated about its risks.
“I think since the beginning of time people have found a reason, either in celebration or because they were unhappy. Students have found a reason to consume alcohol as long as anyone can remember,” Abbott said. “I don’t think human nature has changed all that much.”
(Photo illustration. Malachi Petersen / The Volante)