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The Whole College Catalog About Drinking: A Guide to Alcohol Abuse Prevention

The Whole College Catalog About Drinking

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PLEASE NOTE: The Whole College Catalog is available for historical purposes. The Whole College Catalog is 37 years old and should be viewed as a historical document only. Please be aware that a more recent report exists, A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges.

The Whole College Catalog was published in 1976, and represents an early, landmark report on the problem of college drinking. The purpose of the Whole College Catalog was to encourage fresh thinking and experimentation regarding alcohol abuse prevention.


“I would like to think that most people can drink in a gracious and joyful way, and that they can do it with some kind of reasonable moderation. There may be people who simply can’t and shouldn’t drink, and it’s up to them to decide that early in life on the basis of their own “experience.”

Thus spoke Father Theodore Hesburgh to students and faculty from around the country in November 1975 at a meeting held to review the contents of this Whole College Catalog. The University of Notre Dame president went on to call alcohol abuse “one of the great enormous problems of our times,” and spoke of two illuminating experiences from his own life. The first involved his learning how to drink in a “civilized manner,” mostly with meals, while studying in pre-World War II Italy. He recalled that in 3 years in that country he saw only three people drunk—and two of them were Americans! (And he had seen hundreds of thousands of Italians during those 3 years.)

The second incident involved a law student he knew at Notre Dame after the war. Every time this fellow would go downtown at night he would inevitably come back to the residence hall in an intoxicated state; and usually someone had to put him to bed. On one particular occasion it was Father Hesburgh who gave assistance and, in parting, asked the student to see him the next day. The following morning the student arrived looking a bit sheepish and expecting a stern reprimand. Instead, he was asked what he wanted out of life. The student responded that he wanted to be a successful lawyer, have a good marriage, and be a good father. Father Hesburgh then asked “Okay, do you know what you are right now?” The student said, “Yeah, I’m a law student at Notre Dame.”

“No, beyond that. If I think of your name, one thing comes to mind: perpetual drunk. You never leave this campus except that you come home like you did last night and you’re a cause of difficulty for everybody who knows and likes you. I’d just like to ask you three questions. Have you ever known in your whole life a successful lawyer who has been a drunk? You know, a chronic drunk the way you are? And do you know any successful marriage where the husband has been a chronic drunk? And finally do you know any father of children, who has been a good father, who has been a chronic drunk?”

The student had to admit that the answer was “no” to all three questions.

“Well, you just got through telling me what you wanted to be, and then you tell me that you don’t know anybody who can be that if he’s like you. I think there’s something goofy in your life that you better sort out because you’re acting in a way that makes it impossible to be what you want to be.”

These two experiences of Father Hesburgh illustrate some important points about alcohol abuse as it relates to American society and to us as individuals. While drunkenness and the accompanying social damage are perhaps not unique to the United States, they do tend to be more prevalent and destructive in this country than in many others. Fortunately, there are societies where individuals have learned to use alcohol in a mature, nondestructive, “gracious and joyful” way. We can look at these cultures and perhaps find help for our own future.

Despite what we see on television and read in magazines, drinking does not solve our problems—it is not the key to success and happiness. For those of us who have set personal goals and who seek human dignity and happiness, it might be well worthwhile to reexamine our use of alcohol and our behavior, as well as that of those we love, to see if there is something “goofy” in our lives.

This Catalog is dedicated to reexamination.

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