By Michael Wunderlich
Many college students see their university life as a time of experimentation, the first chance to step outside the watchful gaze of a parent's eye and a time they can try new things.
Parties regularly feature alcohol as a social lubricant, and smoking tags along as a companion.
But for Luke Thompson, neither smoking or drinking are part of his college experience.
That's because Luke is "straight edge." He doesn't drink alcohol, he doesn't smoke cigarettes and he's drug free.
"In high school I was really big in a youth group and I kind of felt a lot of the younger kids looked up to me," Thompson said. "I just wanted to show them that you could still be bad -- without smoking and drinking."
The straight edge philosophy and lifestyle originated in the late 1970's and early 80's with the rise of hardcore punk music. The substance free lifestyle was a response to the sexual excess and substance abuse associated with punk rock.
The band Minor Threat's song, "Straight Edge," reads, "I'm a person just like you, but I've got better things to do, than sit around and smoke dope, ‘cause I know I can cope."
Hardcore punk music is aggressive by nature, with high-energy shows and a loud and hostile sound, and sometimes fights occur when bands are playing. Being "straight edge" is associated with that music and the aggressive attitudes coming from it. Thompson says there sometimes is a negative perception and he's hesitant to let people know he's straight edge.
"I don't claim it (being straight edge,) because a bunch of my friends are smokers and drinkers and I'd fight for them before I'd fight for anybody that's just not smoking and drinking or using drugs," Thompson said.
Being straight edge certainly puts Thompson in the minority among college students, but that doesn't mean other students on campus don't admire the choices that people like Thompson make.
"I think it's awesome. I think it's really cool, as long as you stick to it," said USC student Blair Baxter.
If you head down to Five Points on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night, you're likely to see the bars and sidewalks crawling with college students looking for a cold beer or enjoying a cigarette after a week of higher education.
Thompson doesn't participate in these traditional forms of recreation, but he still knows how to have fun.
"I work out all the time, I go to shows all the time and throw down in pits," Thompson said. "I pretty much do everything that people do when they're drunk or high or stuff but I just do it sober."
Thompson may be straight edge, but he feels how you act is more important sometimes, than what you believe in.
"Just don't be an a—hole because there's way too many a—holes that are straight edge and I think they kind of bring the whole thing down where people see it and they're like, ‘Nah I don't want to be like that, hand me a beer," Thompson said.
"You can be a cool guy and just not drink, smoke and do drugs."