It begins early in the morning. Off-campus houses fill with those who are attempting great feats, those who have purchased a great deal of alcohol and those who will not remember much the next day. Loud music reverberates through the walls; beer pong tables are set in place.
Tallies scrawled across torsos and wrists denote how many cans or shots have been conquered. “What’s your number?” is the phrase of the day. People are already passed out on the couch and others stumble around in a daze. It’s Case Day.
A campus tradition, Case Day began over sixty years ago and continues on to this day—much to the Administration’s chagrin. Each year, on the second Saturday of the second semester, students gather to socialize, bond and attempt to drink twenty-four cans of beer in one day.
The rules of Case Day are relatively straightforward—drink 24 cans of beer in a day.
“You have to finish a case in 24-hours, but if you finish your case a little bit after, I don’t think it counts against you, and if you drink more that’s OK too,” said a Case Day participant.
There is a difference of opinion regarding starting times. Most say you can start whenever you wake up, but there are a few who believe that there are specific starting times based on seniority, the idea being that start times are supposed to correspond with drinking experience and tolerance levels.
Though the time limit is usually the span of an entire day, some students accomplish the task in less time. “Technically, its 24-hours, but I did mine in 12,” said a participant.
Beer is not the only option on Case Day. “Those who don’t like or can’t drink beer can replace it with 24 shots of hard alcohol,” said one Case Day observer.
There are no set rules for men or women, but there seems to be somewhat of a stereotype that girls won’t finish. “Men are expected to finish their case but if a woman does it’s a huge accomplishment. There’s definitely a double standard, but it’s somewhat justified,” said one female participant.
Administrators across campus see Case Day as another instance of a growing problem with alcohol at Gustavus.
“During January Interim Term we almost lost three people. Two females and a male,” said Director of Safety and Security Ray Thrower. “My biggest fear is that we are going to lose someone to alcohol poisoning. We’re seeing it around us at Mankato State and some of the other schools.”
Safety and Security and Residential Life increased patrols and programming in an effort to cut down on the number of people who took part in Case Day.
“We increase the number of officers [during Case Day],” said Thrower. “We’re not increasing the number of officers to bust people, though that does happen; what we’re looking for are students who are passed out or in really bad shape.”
“We have more staff members on-duty throughout the day, rather than just the night. We also do a lot of programming. It’s an opportunity for people who chose not to do this to have other things to do,” said Director of Residential Life Charlie Strey.
Some students, however, don’t understand why administrators want to put an end to Case Day. “I guess I wonder why they are so adamant about us not doing it. I can handle it; I know that,” said one participant. “I think [the concern] is overblown. I think the big deal of it comes because it seems so excessive. And in a way it is. But, [the Administration knows] how old we are and what we do to blow off steam. I’m no different than 65 to 70 percent, whatever the statistics are, of college students who drink. There are a lot of people who drink, and it’s not that big of a deal.”
Some administrators don’t buy such explanations. “People look for ways to justify their behavior, and there isn’t a justification for [Case Day]. If somebody were to pass away from this, it’s left to the rest of the community to pick up the pieces, not the person who died. I think it is very selfish,” said Strey.
Students also say that what they are doing is not so different from what many administrators did 30 years ago, when the legal drinking age was 18. “[Case Day] is not much different than [what] the administrators now used to do. It’s what they did when they were here. It’s not like we’re the first to do it,” said one participant.
Administrators, however, disagree with such statements and emphasize that it doesn’t change the problems surrounding Case Day.
“I don’t know what other administrators did, but this is behavior is not something I would have ever engaged in, even though I was able to drink at 18,” said Strey. “I think that the mentality of drinking 24 or more bottles or cans of beer or shots or whatever is abusive drinking. And whether an administrator did it at age 18 or whether a student does it at age 18, it is abusive drinking.”
Some say Case Day is more intense than other weekends that involve heavy drinking.
“People just walk around in a daze—but that’s a lot of fun, walking around in a daze and doing stupid things,” said one Case Day observer.
Others feels that Case Day may be a special occasion, but it is not all that different from any other weekend. “If someone is going to legitimately be doing it, they’re going to make it the whole way. For instance, if somebody wants to do a power hour [and] then play [beer] pong to try to get rid of their case, they’re not going to drink any more than they would on a regular night. People who want to do it know they can’t push their way through it. They have to pace themselves.”
Many students see Case Day as a rite of passage. “As irresponsible as Case Day sounds, it’s a fun tradition that can be handled in a semi-responsible way. If you aren’t an idiot about it, it’s definitely a good time,” said one student.
Drinking that much alcohol in one 24-hour period can be dangerous to your health. If not done responsibly, drinking excessively can lead to loss of consciousness, lower blood pressure and body temperature, alcohol poisoning or death.
Binge drinking is considered to be consuming five or more drinks on a single occasion within two hours for men, and four or more for women.
“I think that binge-drinking and danger drinking are two different things,” said one student. “Look, some dumb kid isn’t going to come in and try to drink a case if he hasn’t been drinking all year. It’s not that much more than they normally would do. — And the guys who are drinking 36 or 48 [beers] know what … they’re doing. Yeah, it is dangerous, but it’s no more dangerous than anything else that you do.”
It is common to misplace things when intoxicated, and it is not always easy to recover lost objects once an individual sobers up. One student, who claimed to have lost his car, cell phone, jacket, backpack and beer had only this to say; “F*** Case Day. Worst idea ever.”
Safety and Security
Over the Case Day weekend, there was a slight increase in the number of incidents Safety and Security and Residential Life dealt with. There were 12 incidents that resulted in nine people being charged with alcohol violations, two noise violations, two incidents of theft, two people charged with vandalism and an incident of vomiting.