Dartmouth will adopt a hard alcohol ban
In a Thursday morning speech outlining a new social doctrine for Dartmouth, College President Phil Hanlon announced a campus-wide ban on hard alcohol — beverages containing more than 15 percent alcohol by volume — to be enforced the beginning of spring term and the mandatory presence of third-party bartenders and bouncers at parties hosted by Dartmouth or College-recognized organizations. Hanlon also reaffirmed the continuation of the Greek system, but said that its existence could be revisited in the coming years.
The changes, the subject of much speculation before their official announcement, were generally met with acceptance by Greek leaders interviewed by The Dartmouth.
“I think a lot of it was pretty predictable, and frankly, at the end of the day pretty tame in respect to its impact on Greek life and student life in general at Dartmouth,” president of Beta Alpha Omega fraternity Chet Brown ’15 said.
Brown added that the elimination of hard alcohol will make managing social events easier for Greek houses and their leadership and praised the policy’s potential to mitigate risks.
Panhellenic Council vice president of public relations Jessica Ke ’15 said the policies were still vague at the time of announcement and added that Panhell is looking forward to participating in the process of narrowing down the specifics of the policies.
“Student voices really do need to be heard in this implementation process, and it’s really a function of the fact that we are the ones on the ground, we’re the ones in this culture,” Ke said. “The administration is overseeing it, but we’re living it.”
In a statement provided by Interfraternity Council public relations and outreach director Brett Drucker ’15, the IFC lauded the role of the Greek Proposal — a set of policy recommendations produced in the fall by members of the IFC, Panhell and the Gender-Inclusive Greek Council — in influencing Hanlon’s recommendations. The statement made clear that while the IFC does not agree with every aspect of Hanlon’s new policies, they look forward to continued collaboration with student leaders and administrators to implement these policies.
Drucker is a former member of The Dartmouth Senior Staff.
The specifics, including the timeline and enforcement structure, surrounding the policies’ implementation have yet to be made clear. The hard alcohol ban states that hard alcohol beverages cannot be kept in students’ possession or be served at events sponsored by the College or by College-recognized organizations, including Greek houses.
While the policy changes mention a commitment to expanding the size of Dartmouth’s Safety and Security force, the exact method of implementation for the hard alcohol ban was not made clear in Hanlon’s speech.
Interim Dean of the College Inge-Lise Ameer said that some specifics will be proposed through a new social events and alcohol management working group, which will be comprised of various community members.
Experts in alcohol and alcohol policy have mixed opinions on the effectiveness of a hard alcohol college campus ban. David Hanson, an expert on collegiate alcohol policy and a professor emeritus of sociology at the State University of New York at Potsdam, said that he does not believe a ban on hard alcohol will be effective in combating high-risk drinking.
“A ban on hard liquor really makes no sense,” Hanson said. “If [Hanlon] wants to ban hard liquor, he should ban beer and wine, because a drink of beer or wine contains exactly the same amount of alcohol as spirits.”
There is little logic in banning hard alcohol without banning all alcohol, Hanson said, though he did not advocate for the latter policy.
Laura Forbes, the former chair of the American College Health Association’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Coalition, said that Dartmouth’s new policies likely would not dramatically “slow down the intoxication rate, because you can’t curb all the pre-partying.” Students will find ways to become “overly inebriated” if they wish, no matter the College’s alcohol policy, she said.
Other colleges and universities around the country employ a hard alcohol ban, including Bowdoin College and Colby College.
Colby, which implemented its ban at the start of the 2010-2011 academic year, has outlawed all hard alcohol on campus with the exception of a campus bar, Colby’s senior associate dean of students and director of campus life Jed Wartman said.
“The primary sort of benefit or positive outcome is that the highest risk drinking seems to have been reduced,” Wartman said. “We still have issues with alcohol, and we still have students who consume to scary levels, but we are finding fewer students at high risk in terms of level of intoxication than we had before the ban.”
Cathy Zhao, a junior at Colby, said that the ban has not stopped students from consuming hard alcohol. Instead, she said, it has pushed freshmen pre-games underground while upperclassmen continue to pre-game largely as they did before the ban.
“It doesn’t promote pre-gaming any more than normal, it just promotes the hiding of pre-gaming,” she said. “It limits the healthy relationship that we need between campus safety components as well as the students that we’re trying to help.”
Zhao also described the ban as “just a scare tactic,” and said that it has not succeeded in meeting the administration’s goals.
At Bowdoin, the hard alcohol ban is similarly ignored by some students, Chad Martin, a Bowdoin junior, said. The school made it clear that hard alcohol use was not acceptable when he matriculated, but Martin said he quickly learned that students partook with impunity anyway.
“There are people who get caught with hard alcohol, and nothing happens really,” he said. “Just a small slap on the wrist and that’s about it.”
Still, hard alcohol abuse is one of the more common reasons for alcohol-related sanctions against Bowdoin students, Bowdoin sophomore Hannah Miller said.
“It doesn’t really impact the social experience — people still drink it,” she said. “It just gives security the ability, if they see someone drinking hard alcohol, to make them pour it out.”
Forbes said that a hard alcohol ban could only really be effective if it were enforced strictly.
“How seriously is it going to be taken if there’s no teeth with the enforcement piece?” she asked.
Stanford University briefly had a hard alcohol ban on its campus its summer 2012 sessions, but the ban was lifted after the university’s administration received negative student feedback, The Stanford Daily reported.
Several Stanford officials either declined to comment or did not respond to numerous requests for comment.
The ban at Dartmouth will simply lead to more high-risk pre-gaming and more secretive consumption of hard alcohol, Amarna undergraduate society president Julia Salinger ’15 said.
“Prohibition hasn’t been successful in the past, and I’m not sure it will work here,” she said.
Aylin Woodward ’15, the president of Phi Tau who noted that she was not speaking on behalf of her house, said that she expected discomfort amongst students over the policy.
“Whenever you restrict a right to anything, especially a legal right, you’re going to have pushback, so that’s probably going to be the basis of much of the collective malaise around his proposal,” she said.
Woodward is a member of The Dartmouth Staff.
Coed houses expect the impact of both the hard alcohol ban and the third-party vendor policy on their operations to be greater than the impact on single-gender Greek houses, GIGC president Matthew Digman ’15 said.
“We have a disproportionate number of registered parties with hard alcohol, and we take great lengths to manage those well,” he said.
Cristy Altamirano ’15, the president of Alpha Theta coed fraternity, said that the third-party vendor policy could potentially pose a financial problem for her house, for which dues are optional.
The Greek Proposal contained a specific recommendation that hard alcohol use be allowed at coed houses due to their history of safe events featuring such beverages and serving hard alcohol at numerous open-to-campus events.
The exact form the third-party security and bartender policy will take is unclear, and Ameer said that specifics still need to be worked out.
It is likely the third-party bartender and security policy will only effect “tier three” parties — registered events that serve alcohol and have more than 150 students in attendance, Brown said.
Brown said that Beta has utilized third-party security in the past, and noted that he is not necessarily opposed to the change. It would, however, be logistically and financially impossible to have third-party vendors at every event hosted by Greek organizations, he said.
Ke said that the loss of so-called “tails” events, at which hard alcohol mixed drinks are served, is not definite at this stage.
Third-party vendor policies have a chance of success, Hanson said, as they shift legal liability away from the College and Greek organizations.
The obligation of registered bartenders not to over-serve customers is an advantage of the third-party system, Forbes said, although she added that “a third-party vendor will never be able to tell is how much a student has pre-partied.”
The University of Pennsylvania employs a similar policy for registered parties, which has seen mixed success, Penn junior Allison Higgins said.
When Greek organizations or other social spaces host a registered event, officials are present to distribute alcohol — usually only beer — to students 21 and older, she said. However, most students choose to go to unregistered events which are usually then broken up by Philadelphia Police, she said.
Administrators at Penn did not respond to requests seeking comment.
In addition to the specific policies relating to alcohol, Hanlon also laid out a vision for Greek organizations to actively participate in reform.
“Moving forward, it will be simple,” the recommendations read. “Individuals and organizations that choose not to fulfill these higher standards will not be a part of our community.”
All Greek houses will be required to have two faculty advisors — one male and one female — and will eliminate any pledge term for new members.
Brown said that the fact that the Greek system was not eliminated is relieving, and the changes offered were not burdensome when considered against that alternative.
“I think there are going to be some very difficult changes that every Greek organization is going to have to make in the name of perseverance and self-preservation, but there’s no reason that shouldn’t be possible for every Greek organization on campus,” he said. Presidents of other Greek organizations declined or did not respond to requests for comment.