Throw cold water on UGA’s Frat Beach

At the end of the month, my hometown of St. Simons Island will again be the scene of the annual University of Georgia party known as Frat Beach. Part of the Georgia-Florida football weekend, the event has been defended as a unifying tradition for UGA students, but it is far from it.

My hometown released a letter to Georgia universities and colleges explaining Glynn County will no longer tolerate the absurdities that come with college students descending by the thousands onto St. Simons. That spurred defenses of Frat Beach, including that the melee is a revered tradition that unites the student body of UGA.

The student body? That’s quite a lot of people. What about students who call Georgia’s coastal islands home and are upset by the ecological harm left in the wake of the bash? What about students who don’t have cars or can’t afford to drive across the state, load up on alcohol and splurge on a hotel? Not to mention thousands of organisms and animals living at the beach that are disturbed and displaced for two days of tradition and college fun.

There are traditions worth defending, but how does a tradition promoting underage drinking and utter disregard for the host community make the list?

Is it tradition to write your name and phone number and who you “belong to’” on your arm for when you blackout? Tradition is singing “Glory” at a football game. Tradition is not walking under the Arch until you’ve graduated. Tradition is ringing the chapel bell after a victory.

Tradition is not decimating a beach community and destroying property. Is this immature, irresponsible behavior what passes as a unifying tradition, a rite of passage, at UGA, an institution whose motto is “wisdom, justice and moderation”?

Enlighten me on what’s wise, just or moderate about trashing a beach for the sake of a couple selfies.

Some proponents claim only a few students disrespect the beach. However, the Brunswick News reported last year: “According to statistics from Keep Brunswick-Golden Isles Beautiful, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resources Division and the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service, in 2013, Glynn County collected more than 21,000 pounds of litter from the beaches, parks and parking lots over the three-day Georgia-Florida Weekend. If the 8,000 attendance estimate is correct, that equates to more than 2.6 pounds of trash per person.”

My freshman year, I grabbed a ride home with someone who was going to Frat Beach. I went to see what all the hoopla was about and didn’t encounter one coherent person.

There’s the argument that Frat Beach brings revenue to St. Simons Island. I don’t believe the money is worth it. And I’m not the only one. Many business owners and residents agree the invasion of college students adds unwanted stress, traffic and beach damage. A friend’s stepfather even refuses to rent out properties that weekend because the rental fees are not worth the damage and disruption.

Besides, St. Simons doesn’t need a football game to lure visitors, even in late October. It’s a beautiful time of year. In fact, St. Simons just made Huffington Post’s list of “10 Most Beautiful U.S. Towns to Visit in the Fall.”

Believe it or not, there are other people besides drunk UGA students who enjoy taking weekend trips to the beach. They don’t call it the Golden Isles for nothing.

Frat Beach has a real name, by the way. It’s called East Beach.