Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2011

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Educational Policy and Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Ogren, Christine A

First Committee Member

Kerber, Linda K

Second Committee Member

Pascarella, Ernest T

Third Committee Member

Persson, Dorothy

Fourth Committee Member

Sanders, Katrina M


This dissertation offers a history of white college students' relationship with alcohol between 1820 and 1933. The years that frame this study represent a long crisis regarding alcohol in the United States. A dramatic rise in alcohol consumption began around 1800, the negative consequences of which led growing numbers of Americans, for the first time, to associate social evils with alcohol use. These initial realizations gave rise to a reform movement that ebbed and flowed over the next hundred years, reaching the pinnacle of its success in 1920, when national Prohibition became law. During this long century, college students' alcohol use often served as microcosm of developments within society.

This study relies primarily, though not exclusively, on three types of sources that provide different perspectives into both the behavior and the concerns of student drinking. Using a large collection of student diaries, chapters one and two consider college students' alcohol use in the forty years preceding the U.S. Civil War. Chapter one considers the behavioral patterns and significance of college men's drinking; chapter two focuses primarily on the influence of the temperance reform movement on college students. Chapter three considers depictions of student drinking in twenty-two "college novels"--works of fiction set predominantly on campuses with students as their protagonists--published between 1869 and 1933. Finally, chapter four draws on the surviving administrative records at four institutions to consider the effects on campus discipline of national Prohibition.

Across the nation's long century of conflict over alcohol, four themes emerge regarding college student drinking. First, drinking behaviors and attitudes toward alcohol on campus have long reflected those in the larger society. College students' alcohol use has generally mirrored that of adults in the segments of society from which they hailed or those hose ranks they wished to join upon graduation. The second theme is that the negative consequences of college student drinking have been ever-present and widespread. College students' alcohol use has resulted in negative health effects, interfered with their academic obligations, and coincided with vandalism and violence. Closely related to these negative consequences, college students' alcohol use has long presented problems to college authorities. These academic leaders primarily addressed alcohol-related misbehavior through the campus discipline process. Although college authorities enjoyed seemingly absolute discretion in terms of campus discipline, they seldom punished student drinkers harshly. Finally, drinking on campus has long been a mark of privilege. During all the years of this study, the heaviest and most regular alcohol use occurred at the institutions that enrolled the most privileged students, primarily eastern men's colleges. Within both elite and less prestigious institutions, wealthy white men consumed more alcohol than their less economically advantaged peers. By studying college students' alcohol use in relation to societal developments over a long century, the chapters that follow offer a largely untold story of student life and provide important perspective on our contemporary concerns.


alcohol, campus life, college students


xi, 269 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 257-269).


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Copyright © 2011 Michael Stephen Hevel