Verbum Ultimum: No Simple Solutions

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 1/22/15 11:09pm

This past Tuesday, College President Phil Hanlon announced that the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” presidential steering committee submitted their final report. Hanlon will review their recommendations, formulate policy and present that policy to the Board of Trustees on Jan. 28. On Jan. 29, Hanlon will present his plan to combat binge drinking, sexual assault and exclusivity to the public.

We hope that Hanlon’s policy changes are as thorough as the long and highly-publicized “Moving Dartmouth Forward” process would suggest. It is crucial that when Hanlon releases his plan, he include evidence that clearly demonstrates how both he and the presidential steering committee arrived at their conclusions.

The policies must be transparent, effective and pragmatic — it is impossible to completely eliminate binge drinking, sexual assault or exclusivity, so the focus must be on harm reduction. Further, Hanlon’s plan must be a working solution, one that can be revisited and revised as policies are implemented and evaluated.

There are a wealth of options, both models from other schools and suggestions from student leaders, but what is most important is that Hanlon remain transparent and open to feedback.

To address binge drinking, the College could subsidize third-party bartenders for registered parties on a case-by-case basis, relax its regulations surrounding kegs and allow Greek houses to install permanent taps or implement an open-door policy regarding drinking in dormitories.

If students want to get dangerously drunk, they will find a way to do so. Rhetoric about eliminating the epidemic of binge drinking is neither realistic nor helpful. Binge drinking is a symptom of an unhealthy culture and at times indicative of underlying mental health issues, and Hanlon’s policy should reflect that.

Good Samaritan calls, including those made from Greek houses, should never end in punitive actions for either the caller or the subject of the call. Students should never be afraid to seek medical help for themselves or others.

Regarding sexual assault, the first step must be enforcing the College’s existing policy. Expulsion should be the only course of action for students found guilty of violating the College’s sexual misconduct policy. Individuals who commit acts of sexual violence do not have a place in the Dartmouth community. While the implementation of regular, mandatory programming is a good step, it is not enough.

While binge drinking and sexual assault are harmful behaviors that can be addressed and combated, exclusivity is an ambiguous concept. “Exclusivity” carries strong associations with Greek life on this campus. While the two are closely tied, Hanlon’s proposals should look toward a more comprehensive understanding of the ways in which race, socioeconomic class, gender identity, sexuality and more can shape a person’s Dartmouth experience. Exclusivity may the most difficult item on Hanlon’s agenda, but its importance cannot be underestimated, particularly because it intersects with both binge drinking and sexual assault.

Many of these suggestions have been around long before the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” process began. Student leaders have already been addressing these issues for years, and we hope that the policy announced on Jan. 29 will both honor and credit such work.

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