Taking Responsibility

by Phil Aubart | 5/19/09 10:51pm

One of the most common complaints here in our quaint little college town is the oppression of students by Hanover police and even Safety and Security in enforcing the alcohol policies of the state of New Hampshire and those of the College. There was even a series of articles on this issue in The Dartmouth this past week ("Dartmouth students face high alcohol arrest rate," May 12 and "Students offer perceptions of police," May 13).

While, as I have written in the past, I certainly feel that the drinking age should be lowered ("Drinking age should be lowered -- for different reasons," May 3, 2007), I cannot help but critique our own campus culture's contribution to the problem. The role of personal responsibility is completely ignored here. Our mindset as students seems to be that we should be catered to and not be held liable for anything.

While many have argued that the Hanover Police Department's policy of trailing ambulances on calls is overbearing and was enacted with the goal of arresting underage persons, guarding the safety of the paramedics is actually a reasonable concern. Does Hanover Police have to pick on us and arrest students who have no problems during their quick trip to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center? Probably not, but then again, they are police officers and sworn to uphold the law. If I were a policeman I would certainly choose my job over good will for some elitist college punks. They may disagree with me in Durham, N.H., but arrest seems to offer more disincentives to underage drinking than does a trip to the hospital.

Critics have implied that this ambulance policy makes Hanover Police oppressive. Think about it. The majority of kids who are arrested bring trouble upon themselves by being obviously intoxicated in front of a cop and/or drinking an obscene amount of alcohol. It's not as if Hanover Police raid fraternities for underage drinkers or spot-check students out late at night. If this were happening, I would agree that we have a militaristic police force that is directly targeting undergraduates. Hanover Police's intent, however, is to protect us. It would look really bad for them if a really drunk kid passed out and died on the walk home because a policeman or Safety and Security officer decided not to stop him after watching him stumble on flat ground.

The Good Samaritan Policy is often criticized for its hidden punishments. Much of this criticism is well deserved; the policy is intended to make sure dangerously drunk people receive the proper medical care without punishment from the College. Unfortunately, the College cannot actually tell the police what to do. Sometimes the medical care required involves a trip to the hospital -- the College must send you. The fees involved with a Good Sam ambulance call are another hidden punishment. Unfortunately, the existence of a fee affects poor students more than rich -- and is therefore classist. Students who are less well-off should never have less incentive to employ the service than do their wealthy peers, but attaching fines and fees to a trip to Dick's House has exactly that result.

But, honestly, all of these issues are on the periphery of the real issue at hand: personal responsibility. If you drink responsibly and take care of yourself, you'll never have an issue with the local police or Safety and Security. You'll never need to be Good Sammed. Now, maybe it's unfair for me to say this; I turned 21 during my freshman year after all, so I can't really be arrested for drinking too much. But then again, when's the last time a mildly drunk Dartmouth student has been arrested? (Of course, I'm referring to times when the Vermont police were not raiding formals.)

The idea that we feel so entitled that we believe we can drink illegally and entirely without consequences is absurd. Of course we're in college and we like to party hard. Some might even say at Dartmouth we NEED to party hard to survive. But there's a difference between partying hard and being irresponsible.

I understand that accidents happen and sometimes alcohol catches you by surprise. Those are the exact reasons we need a Good Sam policy. But really, have some personal responsibility, have fun, drink -- but don't drink to the point where you need a Good Sam. Or at least be strong enough to accept the consequences and not complain too much if you do.