Verbum Ultimum: Adding Incentives

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 10/2/14 7:42pm

Dartmouth by the numbers: One hundred liquor law arrests, 84 more than in 2012. Two hundred and forty three liquor law violations, nearly triple 2012’s amount.

On Wednesday, Dartmouth released its annual security and safety report as mandated by the Clery Act — and the data show greater administrative transparency. The report now includes in its tallies those who were referred to the Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students program, those who were sent to Dick’s House after a Good Samaritan call and those who participate in the Diversion program. Furthermore, the College’s reporting practices better align with federal law.

These broader figures paint a clear picture of what transpired on campus last year, and the report was quickly distributed over email to students — and parents. We commend how the College shared this important information.

But let’s back up — it’s time to talk about what these numbers mean. The data add context to College President Phil Hanlon’s statement to students, trustees and staff that “Dartmouth’s promise is being hijacked by extreme and harmful behaviors.” The College’s 2014 security and safety report shows troubling behaviors that current structures have not effectively addressed.

We can no longer downplay the dangerous behaviors that surround us. Making a Good Sam call is of course always the right thing to do, but we wish students didn’t need to dial that number so often. Blacking out is not normal or okay, nor is encouraging friends to “boot and rally.” Stealing each other’s property, drunk or sober, is never justifiable. Standing by while students actively harm each other is morally reprehensible. Our attitudes toward alcohol require a drastic shift.

Finding a solution to these “extreme and harmful behaviors” requires administrative support and student buy-in. To student leaders, to the presidential steering committee — we recommend as first steps strengthening existing structures, particularly the Dartmouth Bystander Initiative and programming after Homecoming.

The College has already poured considerable time and financial resources into DBI. Last spring, Student Assembly attempted to incentivize participation in DBI by linking the provision of Greek house dues-assistance funds to participation in the program. While this particular initiative was shot down by the Undergraduate Finance Committee, the idea that last year’s Assembly pitched shows the way we must think as we develop policies and practices. College organizations — and administrators — should aim to answer the same question: how do you incentivize safety if students perceive it as the alternative to fun? Just as students were required to attend workshops before Greek recruitment, we suggest finding ways to link DBI education to other things that students want to do: attend a foreign study program, enroll in sophomore summer, lead a first-year trip.

DBI programming must also meet student scheduling needs. The D-Plan makes fitting in that extra time commitment feel like a Herculean task. But other campus centers — namely, the Center for Professional Development — can serve as examples for the health promotion and wellness office. The center hosts events on the Collis porch, advertising its programming frequently over email. By centralizing events in student locations, they are easier to fit into our busy lives.

Second, we can learn from the Greek Leadership Council’s decision to block first-year students from alcohol-serving Greek events for the first six weeks of term. This fall, movie nights and student concerts have brought freshmen through seniors to Greek social spaces — without alcohol. But after Homecoming, when the ban is lifted, the College must incentivize Greek organizations to continue hosting these types of events. Perhaps one way to do this is to require organizations to register an event without alcohol for every two at which they serve it.

While the College has policies in place that protect students from recklessness and keep records clean despite liquor law arrests and violations, we remain accountable for our actions. With its new tallying policy Dartmouth is admitting to a drinking problem, taking responsibility for our debauchery. Now it’s our turn as students to do the same.