Katie Roiphe is a Harvard and Princeton educated professor and author directing the graduate journalism Cultural Reporting and Criticism program at NYU. In an essay in Atlantic Magazine’s August 2021 edition, 16 Things to Remember at College, Dr. Roiphe offers advice to her college freshman daughter that she wished someone had given her.
“Over the past few months, I have been saving up all the advice I wish someone had given me when I went off to college. I realize that you will probably have to ignore much of this for years, but I am hoping little bits of it will pop into your mind at random moments.”
Fifteen of her recommendations resonate – from tips on how to maximize learning at college,
to savor the opportunity to learn, and to stay away from destructive relationships. But her first suggestion triggered a double take:
Always drink two drinks fewer than you think you want to. You will get more joy out of life if you are alert to it, before that second-to-last drink, when the evening gets slurred. If you drink too much, you lose those lovely, wild moments. You basically miss them. If you master the art of getting just-the-right-amount drunk, you will have more fun.
At first glance, Dr. Roiphe is correct. What advice can you offer anyone who has been partying throughout high school, and will continue at college – every weekend?! Tell your daughter to stop? Give her the stats that because of drinking and substance use, hundreds of thousands of students are physically and sexually assaulted, and 1,500 die, not to mention their academic performance is compromised? (See National Institute of Health, Fall Semester – A Time for Parents to Discuss the Risks of College Drinking, Updated December 2021.)
Of course she won’t listen, and scientists are struggling with ideas to reduce drinking on campus. (See Scientific American, “A Clever Way to Reduce Drinking on Campus,” Andy Earle, March 17, 2020.) So at least Dr. Roiphe is attempting to cut her losses by suggesting her daughter avoid worse-case scenarios – just “master the art of getting the right amount drunk” – and “you will have more fun.”
AN ALTERNATIVE VISION OF COLLEGE
I propose an alternate vision for campus that not only Dr. Roiphe’s daughter, but any Jewish person, can appreciate and leverage college into a transformational experience, predicated on the Jewish principle of Tikun Olam – perfecting the world. It will infuse life with unparalleled meaning and simcha – genuine joy. Most importantly, this vision isn’t academic theory, it’s in close reach, and has been embraced and practiced by Observant Jews for 3,500 years. This perspective makes the unbridled drinking/partying culture irrelevant to those who join this movement.
Here’s the advice they could be offered:
As we begin Year 2022, ecosystem destruction, environmental damage, and warfare endanger our planet. Self-interest, disease, poverty and abuse are destroying lives. A divided society breeds intolerance and hatred. We hope for a different world, one where people truly care about one another, and look to create a new reality for humanity based on genuine respect, hard work, and community.
Who can reverse the negativity and damage? I trust that you can. Inspire college communities to mobilize to improve not only American society, but even the entire world. We sorely need this. Harness the tremendous talents of your fellow undergraduate and graduate students – you’re in the dream incubator. Invigorate your friendships, seek fresh ideas. Brainstorm 100 plans to tackle the challenges that surround us. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Wherever possible, partner with existing initiatives that share your ideals and enthusiasm. The solution is here – at your front door.
How can Dr. Roiphe’s daughter and her peers accomplish this? By gaining a deep appreciation of Judaism’s plan for Tikun Olam and leadership. Join Olami rabbis and educators worldwide who are spearheading this movement using their honed cutting-edge educational curricula, as well as the Olami Morasha Syllabus. We are on the cusp of an exciting, revitalized new world! Come join us to make it happen!