Vox Clamantis: Hard Alcohol Policy

by Douglas Goodman | 1/29/15 10:37pm

Dartmouth’s strengths are in education and research. Our weaknesses are an overconcern with reputation and appearance. Although I applaud the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” presidential steering committee for its work and many of its recommendations, I’m afraid that when it comes to their initiative on alcohol, they have played to our weaknesses and ignored our strengths.

In regards to education, we see no support for those classes that deal with issues of drinking and drugs. I teach such a class, and instead of being supported by the College, it will be cut because of budget concerns. Instead of critical analysis and discussion, we will get “training.”

In their recommendation to ban hard alcohol, we also see a neglect of research. None of the studies that the committee cites show that hard alcohol is associated with extreme drinking. On the contrary, research indicates that binge drinking is strongly related to the consumption of beer. In 2000, the American Journal of Preventative Medicine published an analysis of the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study — which several of the committee’s sources relied on for their data. This analysis showed that the strongest correlation for binge drinking is beer as the alcohol choice. A 2007 study from the American Journal of Preventative Medicine that looked specifically at what binge drinkers drink found that about 75 percent of binge drinking was predominantly beer.

The studies suggest that pervasive advertising and cultural myths present beer as harmless, making it more prone to misuse. Hard alcohol is generally regarded as more dangerous and consequently even underage drinkers treat it more carefully. Unfortunately, the committee accepted these myths and “anecdotal evidence,” and created a policy that would be seen as serious rather than one that would actually be effective.