Opinion: Students react to "Moving Dartmouth Forward" plans

by The Dartmouth | 1/30/15 1:20pm

While the actual implementation and results remain to be seen, the Moving Dartmouth Forward plan announced by President Hanlon seems to adequately address many of the issues that the administration sought to fix, including sexual assault, exclusivity and the lack of an alternative social spaces on campus. Unfortunately, it really missed the mark on the issue of binge drinking. The plan does not take a realistic view and accept inevitability of collegedrinking (and underage drinking, specifically) by encouragingstudents who choose to drinkto participate in safer practices such as drinking beer and wine over hard liquor, and consuming alcohol gradually over the course of a night.

Instead, the MDF plan forces students to participate in dangerous practices. A hard liquor ban combined with a bartender requirement at parties does not seek to curb binge-drinking. It seeks to end all forms of drinking, except the consumption of beer by those of age. This ignores reality and leaves few options for underage students who choose to drink — and there are many who do and will continue to do so — other than secret pregames, hidden flasks and very quick consumption of alcohol.

When you combine these unsafe drinking practices with ramped up college enforcement policies, including a possible “search on suspicion” clause that administrators could add to the Dartmouth Handbook and tougher policing by Undergraduate Advisors, you get a spike in underground drinking and a spike in alcohol-related infractions and punishments. This will neither solve the real drinking problems on campus nor Dartmouth’s problematic reputation as a hard drinking school. Sounds to me like a pretty sorry attempt at a “solution” to Dartmouth’s issue with binge drinking.​

Jack Braun ’16

Forcing students to take earlier classes? Curbing grade inflation? This will not stop kids from going out, especially those who engage in “extreme” behavior. Instead, these changes will just punish the rest of the hardworking student body. Dartmouth students are stressed and sleep-deprived enough as it is.

I’m hoping this part of the plan was just a PR move in response to “Clickergate.” For the sake of campus mental health, We should tell the administration not to make these changes.

Matthew Rabito ’18

As a Drug and Alcohol Peer Advisor, an aspiring addiction physician and someone who has been researching alcohol policy for almost five years, I strongly support the ban on hard alcohol. Studying the epidemiology of college alcohol use and abuse reveals the simple maxim that less alcohol leads to less risky consumption. The goal of this policy is a healthier student body. Just like how a smoke-free campus prohibits students from smoking on campus because smoking is dangerous to individuals and the community, hard alcohol has been shown to cause harm to Dartmouth students and the community at large. The majority of medical transports to Dick’s House and DHMC involve hard alcohol, and research shows that perpetrators facilitate sexual assault through alcohol, usually mixed drinks. Hard alcohol is often used as a means to get intoxicated quickly, and many students struggling with mental illness use it to self-medicate, resulting in exacerbated symptoms.

It is often said that there is no silver bullet when it comes to the issue of high-risk drinking. Indeed, it is a societal aphorism that those who want to engage in risky behaviors will always find a way to do so. This policy, however, is one of the best evidence-based approaches to reducing a community’s dangerous consumption rates. Many point out flaws and issues that it raises, yet I urge you to remember that this ban will be most fully realized not in our current residential structures, but in the new housing system. Many of these epiphenomenal issues should be mitigated by the new structures put in place. I truly believe that a Dartmouth without unlimited hard liquor available will be a Dartmouth with a healthier student body.

John Damianos ‘16

College is a time for young adults to begin making their own decisions and learn how to deal with the consequences. It is the College’s job to encourage us to make right decisions, not to make decisions for us.

Most have heard the commonly cited example of the sheltered high school student who came to college and drank too much in freshman fall. Such incidences often happen because their parents forbid both going out on the weekends, and, like President Hanlon, hard alcohol.

And that’s a good thing. There are many things high school students do not need to be exposed to. But one of the most important parts of college is learning how to deal with your own new independence, learning what to do and what not to do by trial and error.

It is important that Dartmouth students learn how to consume hard alcohol in a safe way. Binge drinking on campus is a huge problem that needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, it’s not a problem that can be done away with in the wave of the magic wand of prohibition. Dartmouth students need to come to their own respective conclusions that binge drinking is an unhealthy practice, and a mandate coming from anywhere else won’t teach us anything or help us to become safe young adults.

​I invite the College to encourage its students to stop binge drinking. But a campus-wide ban on hard alcohol? That just robs us of our independence and our ability to learn from our mistakes.

Doug Phipps ’17

The reason why I feel moderate about the new plans President Hanlon announced for Moving Dartmouth Forward is because I trust that all of Dartmouth, including the administration, is in this together — “this” being making Dartmouth as wonderful as possible because we’re a part of this community and we care. Our opinions on the best ways to do that differ, of course, but I am not appreciative of how some responses have been direct launches to attack the newly announced plans and the president himself.

If we really understood what Moving Dartmouth Forward was about – and it’s not about policies of what drinks make or break a fun party and therefore the students’ entire social life – then our “discussions” would be more constructive and effective. It disheartens me to hear students say, “Why is the administration doing this? It’s probably because they freaked out about application rates and bad rep.” I refuse to believe that leaders and members of a community do not work hard because they care, but for some statistic or fear of disapproval. (Sure, money must be in the equation, but that’s with everything anyway.)

​I haven’t yet formed my stances on each point of the plans, but I trust that my community’s leader shares with me the sincere intentions and willingness to change Dartmouth for the better. And because I trust in our common goal, I also trust that he will listen when I decide to speak. Yesterday he spoke – I am listening.

Susan Soo Hyun Lee ‘16