Williams bans pong, other drinking games

by Kelly Cameron | 10/19/00 5:00am

Williams College Dean of Security Jean Thorndike recently announced what she called "a high-risk drinking ban," which bans drinking games such as beer pong and Beirut, in order to encourage students to drink more responsibly.

Beer pong, a staple of the Williams social scene -- as it is at Dartmouth -- will no longer be allowed on the Williams campus.

Security officials can confiscate materials needed for beer pong or Beirut, and hosts of parties where the games are observed can face sanctions or suspension.

The student newspaper The Williams Record attributed the ban to the fact that dormitories last year incurred thousands of dollars in damages due to the drunken behavior of students. The Record said Williams' Security and Housing department found that many of the students causing the damage had been participating in drinking games, especially beer pong.

Students do not consider Williams to be a huge party school, said Ben Katz, editor-in-chief of The Record.

"I don't think it would be fair to say that Williams has more of a problem than any other college," Katz told The Dartmouth.

Williams eliminated its Greek system in 1962, however its former Greek houses still stand and are auctioned off to seniors who live there. When parties occur there, the hosts are then responsible for registering the party and making sure that no one under age is drinking, Katz said.

The new high risk drinking ban is just another way to hold the hosts responsible for the drinking that goes on at the parties and for the campus security to investigate potentially dangerous situations, Katz said.

Although Williams has tried to implement a social norms campaign similar to Dartmouth's, it has not been very effective, according to Katz.

Dartmouth has been discussing the problems of binge and underage drinking for a longer period than Williams. Thorndike was quoted in the The Record saying, "in the past, not a great deal of attention was paid to this problem."

Dartmouth, one of a few schools' whose social norms campaign received media attention in The New York Times recently, introduced the program last year.

Katz said he is generally in support of the new high-risk drinking ban as long as "the college isn't doing it to be the bad guys."

However, Katz said he feels Williams officers should be able to step in and help when individual students' drinking reaches dangerous levels.

A majority of students on campus do not think that the new ban will be very effective.

Williams sophomore Keiller Kyle said, "We don't need drinking games to drink a lot of alcohol, so I don't think it's actually having the affect the school wants it to have."

Furthermore, the Williams ban does not attempt to discourage underage drinking.

The Williams administration is "attempting to do a good thing by stopping binge drinking which usually happens with the games, but at the same time they are not really doing anything to prohibit underage drinking," Kyle said.

While the Trustee Steering Committee on the Student Life Initiative initially condemned pong and the "widespread acceptance of the repugnant practice of 'booting and rallying'" in their January 2000 report, said, however, in its recommendations that, for pragmatic reasons, it would not recommend a ban on drinking games.

It does not appear that such a high-risk drinking ban is in the future for Dartmouth, although easy access to alcohol was targetted in the summer removal of Coed Fraternity and Sorority house taps and bars.

Margaret Smith, coordinator of alcohol and other drugs education programs, said that "At Dartmouth there is some good news -- most students drink moderately."

"To address high risk use of alcohol, I think Dartmouth students have, and can continue, to come together to explore a variety of ideas, plans, and possibilities around the topic of reducing frequent heavy use of alcohol," Smith said.

Mike Johnson '01, president of the College's Intra-Fraternity Council, believes that for Dartmouth, education is the key.

"I don't think that eliminating pong would accomplish the ultimate goal of reducing alcohol consumption," Johnson said. "I think that through proper alcohol education these games termed 'high risk' can be relatively safe. Students who aren't as well educated of the risk is the source of the problem."

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