Study: Dartmouth is 12th in alcohol arrests

by Brad Russo | 5/20/98 5:00am

A recently released report ranks Dartmouth 12th in per capita alcohol arrests, placing the College ahead of all other private institutions.

The study, conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education, compared alcohol arrests over the 1996-1997 academic year or the 1996 calendar year for schools with enrollment over 5,000.

Dartmouth had 73 alcohol related arrests during this period. Its per capita rate of .014 arrests per student put Dartmouth behind only 11 institutions, all of which were public universities.

Dean of the College Lee Pelton told The Dartmouth he does not think the report has much meaning.

"I know that these alcohol arrests provide media with wonderful little sound bytes, but they tell you very little about the real issue," Pelton said.

He questioned the legitimacy of comparing the statistics. Pelton said it is not possible to say there is 73 times more drinking at Dartmouth than at Harvard University, although Harvard reported zero arrests.

The University of Wisconsin at Whitewater ranked first with an enrollment of 10,392 students and 313 arrests, resulting in a .03 alcohol arrest per student rate. University of Wisconsin campuses took six of the top ten spots, including the top three.

Five of the eight Ivy League Institutions reported no alcohol arrests during this period. The University of Pennsylvania reported 63 alcohol arrests and Cornell University reported 60.

Pelton said security officers at some schools like Harvard and Princeton University have arrest powers that reduce the interaction between students and local police.

Hanover Police Captain Chris O'Connor said he thinks Dartmouth's high arrest rate is partly due to the College's location.

"Dartmouth College is actually situated not only in a rural setting, but in a setting that is intertwined with the town of Hanover," O'Connor said.

He said this type of environment is different from many campuses that are enclosed with fences, separating the college and its students from the town.

Pelton also said the College's Hanover setting had an impact in the numbers.

"If you live in a small rural location where the town and the gown are really blended together, you're going to find more arrests," Pelton said.

Police officers at urban schools have to deal with more crimes like murders and burglaries, and so they have less time to spend enforcing alcohol laws, he said.

O'Connor said the College's "working relationship" with Hanover might have added to Dartmouth's top ranking among private schools, but he said he does not think the rates are reflective of stricter policy enforcement.

He said alcohol arrests have actually gone down due to changes in policies resulting from negotiations with the American Civil Liberties Union.

The biggest change was the town's realization that the offense of alcohol possession required a warrant for the police to conduct a search, he said.

"Our standards of arrest haven't changed, but the procedure is more complex," O'Connor said. "There are now some circumstances that we ask if it's worth it."

The Student Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act of 1990 required colleges to publish statistics in nine categories, including arrests for alcohol.

Over the 1996-97 academic year, Dartmouth also reported 11 drug arrests and no weapons arrests.