New Alcohol Regulations Will Encourage Unsafe Drinking

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 11/13/97 6:00am

In a report released yesterday, the College Committee on Alcohol and Other Drugs recommended that Dean of the College Lee Pelton ban kegs during the summer, reduce the number of kegs during the rest of the year and allow Safety and Security officers to patrol the basements of Greek houses during parties. If these recommendations are implemented, it will radically alter, and perhaps worsen, the campus social scene.

While the committee's intentions -- to bring the College into compliance with federal regulations and critically examine high-risk drinking behavior -- are sound, Pelton must consider the possibility that the plan will backfire and encourage unsafe drinking.

This is not the first time the CCAOD has meddled with students' social lives. In 1991, the College tried to eliminate kegs permanently based on a recommendation from the CCAOD. After 14 months, the keg ban ended, and even Pelton called the ban "a mistake." Although yesterday's report doesn't recommend a ban on kegs, the changes it advocates would have the same harmful effects on the social scene and on undergraduate safety.

During the notorious keg ban of 1991 Safety and Security officers prowled fraternity basements. This led to animosity between Safety and Security and students and the creation of elaborate warning systems with buzzers and lights -- but no significant reduction of underage drinking resulted. With less beer available, consumption of hard liquor increased, creating an even graver health risk, since students consume more alcohol in less time while doing "shots."

Greek houses responded to the keg ban by closing their parties, creating a socially stratified Dartmouth -- a divide in the campus between those on the guest list and those left out in the cold.

If the administration attempts to further restrict beer in 1998, Dartmouth may revisit the chaos of 1991-92. The under-21 party scene will not disappear or even shrink. Rather, it will shift back to the residence halls, resulting in dorm damage and alcohol-related cacaphony. Students will be forced to hold off-campus parties -- which are often more dangerous than parties in Greek houses -- and this could cause an increase in drunk driving.

Administrators should heed the ominous echo of the past contained in the CCAOD recommendations released yesterday. They should turn an ear to the student body, pay attention to the lessons of history and encourage the CCAOD to rethink its recommendations to bring them in line with the committee's purpose: protecting the student body. Students, justly, are upset about the proposal. But there remains a small possibility that Pelton will not implement all the recommendations -- after all, it was Pelton who brought kegs back to campus in 1992.