Alcohol and the academy

Type: Panel
Sponsor Groups: Political Geography Specialty Group, Graduate Student Affinity Group, Careers and Professional Development, Harassment-Free AAG Initiative
Poster #:
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Wilson B, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Organizers: Natalie Koch
Chairs: Natalie Koch


The social spaces of academia, like so many institutions in the United States and internationally, are intimately connected to cultures of alcohol consumption. Socializing around drinking is often (implicitly and explicitly) assumed to be an opportunity for bonding, networking, and community-building. Yet the dominant cultures of alcohol in the academy are often just as exclusive as they are inclusive. Some people may not be able to join in social drinking because of a health condition, disability, pregnancy, or religious beliefs. Some may choose not to because they are athletes or because they have family obligations. For those with limited means, the cost of drinking with friends or colleagues may be prohibitive. Others among us fear being vulnerable to sexual assault or have already lived through a traumatic incident in the past. Some have lost loved ones to DUIs, alcohol abuse, or have been victims of addiction-related abuse. Yet others may be coping with addiction themselves. This panel thus starts from the observation that alcohol intersects with many of the pressing discussions currently unfolding in the United States surrounding diversity and inclusiveness, mental health, sexual misconduct.

Part of the AAG’s careers and professional development series, this session focuses on these intersections, especially as they relate to the complicated questions of career advancement and broadening conversations about healthy departments. These issues are especially significant for aspiring scholars, as they reckon with the challenges of navigating their own relationship with alcohol, its place in horizontal and vertical networking, job interviews, and broader concerns about one’s “reputation” in the academic community. While many students – and faculty – may be strongly resistant to participating in alcohol-based socializing, the pressure to join in and fit in can be significant. This pressure means that those who want to abstain are frequently forced to justify themselves. Yet diverse as individuals’ reasons for not drinking may be, not all treated or experienced equally. That is, some people’s rationale for not drinking are treated positively (for example, sports or pregnancy), but other topics are associated with so much shame or trauma that people find it painful or difficult to vocalize to their peers and colleagues. Yet other reasons, like religion, are often stigmatized in largely secular academic communities.

This panel aims to move the discussion beyond the easy repetition of jargon about diversity and inclusiveness, mental health, sexual misconduct, to seriously examine on how these issues play out in and through dominant cultures of alcohol consumption in academia – from socializing among peers, at department or university events, campus interviews, conferences, and beyond. By creating a space for discussion about practical tactics for navigating the politics of alcohol and the academy, the panel invites participants to reflect on how they have approached decisions about alcohol and its role in their career development. Participants who do and do not drink in academically-defined social spaces are invited equally, though a guiding question of the session will address the practical issues faced by those who abstain from drinking in terms of their careers, both in terms of networking and broader issues about health, safety, and inclusion – all of which are needed to thrive in academia. The session is thus an invitation to panelists and participants to think collectively about how our overlapping roles as peers, colleagues, teachers, mentors, institution-builders, advocates and allies might be leveraged to promote a more open discussion about alcohol across the academy.


Type Details Minutes
Introduction Natalie Koch Syracuse University 10
Panelist Michelle Ritchie Pennsylvania State University 10
Panelist Dana Cuomo Western Kentucky University 10
Panelist Nathan Gill USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center 10
Panelist Gretchen Sneegas University of Georgia 10
Panelist Debanuj DasGupta University of Connecticut 10
Panelist Jennifer Titanski-Hooper Francis Marion University 10
Discussant Lorraine Dowler Penn State University 10

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