Park: Reconsider the Ban

by Annika Park | 11/2/14 7:16pm

The six-week ban on first-year students entering Greek houses serving alcohol is over for the Class of 2018, but serious scrutiny of its effectiveness should continue. Whether or not the ban should stay in place next year for the Class of 2019 is a question that deserves serious consideration. Given that the ban was implemented to deter high-risk drinking and reduce incidences of alcohol-driven sexual assault on campus, I believe that its effectiveness — or, as I will argue, lack thereof — should determine whether the ban is continued.

My first week of pre-orientation, a news reporter for The Dartmouth asked me what I thought of the ban. At the time, I was enthusiastic about it because I thought that it would allow first-year students to get to meet each other without being thrown into the social huddle with upperclassmen. Never have I been more wrong. As I found myself roaming from cluster to cluster to find pre-games and saw alcohol being smuggled in and out of dorm rooms, it didn’t take long for me to realize that the ban was not deterring high-risk drinking or encouraging first-year students to get to know each other without the influence of alcohol. What I did see was the formation of mini alcohol cartels as students bought beer and handles off one another at inflated prices. I personally think that Yik Yak became popular because of the ban, as restless first-year students sought places that were “turned up.”

As a first-year student, I can attest to the fact that the ban has made drinking more dangerous and harder to control by driving alcohol consumption underground. During the first six weeks, I found that my peers believed drinking was integral to “college life.” As politically incorrect as it may sound, students crave drinking and partying as part of the “Dartmouth experience.” Even with the ban, first-year students are determined to live the Dartmouth experience they want with makeshift pong tables created from ripped out doors and cheap alcohol hidden in suitcases. Clearly, even with the ban, students are determined to take part in their image of #college.

People come to Dartmouth expecting a certain party culture. I certainly felt that way — and when that was not satisfied, I felt like I was missing out. With the first-year student ban, students feel a dissonance between the Dartmouth experience they envisioned and the Dartmouth experience they get, and it seemed as though students almost felt obligated to drink and party behind closed doors.

Let’s flick back 100 years, and revisit Prohibition in the 1920s, which was one of America’s largest historical failures, giving rise to an era of gangsters and bootleggers making millions off the human desire to drink. The illegal speakeasies remind us of dorm parties that happen behind locked doors. Bar policies and police raids are similar to our secret codes of conduct and fear of possible UGA busts. We learned from Prohibition that all a ban does is make behaviors harder to control. Why are we repeating history? At worst, the ban increases high-risk drinking; at best, it is only moving high-risk drinking behind closed doors in exclusively first-year spaces.

Many studies have shown that peer pressure drives high-risk drinking — the issue is the desire to conform to the social expectations of the norm, not the existence of fraternities. Banning first-year students from fraternities at the start of their Dartmouth careers does not solve the root causes of high-risk drinking, nor does it prevent high-risk drinking from happening in both first-year dormitories and other spaces on campus.

I urge the Greek Leadership Council to end the first-year ban. Instead, let us create a culture where brothers and sisters take care of their guests by keeping an eye on high-risk behavior in their basements.