Opinion Asks

by The Dartmouth Opinion Staff | 2/12/15 7:01pm

I can see why banning hard alcohol would seem like a sound solution for binge drinking, but it seems unclear what makes administrators believe it is feasible. It is already against state law and Dartmouth policies for underage students to drink, yet this clearly does not stop them from accessing alcohol. It is absurd to expect older students not to consume hard alcohol in College-owned housing, when such a practice is very legal just a few hundred feet away in downtown Hanover. Enforcing this policy will undoubtedly be a challenge.

— Reem Chamseddine ’17

At some point, we have all learned about the Prohibition era in the United States — and the famous failure that it was. An authoritative body that bans something, without having the means of fully enforcing the ban, will never be successful. Banning hard alcohol is not going to be effective. Not only will students likely continue to engage in its consumption, but it may become a larger safety hazard if students are more reluctant to seek medical assistance knowing the repercussions of being caught with hard alcohol are more severe.

— Caroline Hsu ’18

The hard alcohol ban will likely have the opposite effect of making students drink healthier or more responsibly. Because students can no longer access hard alcohol in semi-public spaces — like fraternities, where administrators have some capacity to regulate consumption — hard alcohol consumption will move to private dorm rooms. If students fear getting caught with hard alcohol, they are more likely to drink quickly, rather than in a slower, measured way over the course of a night. This sort of consumption — the too-much-too-fast sort that often lands first-years at Dick’s House — is what the College is trying to prevent, yet it’s exactly what the ban will likely encourage. Coupled with new measures requiring third-party bartenders at events, the hard alcohol ban effectively eliminates underage drinking anywhere but in private rooms.

This makes younger women particularly vulnerable to new avenues of sexual assault. More than ever, it will be easy for students to lure other students into their rooms with the promise of hard alcohol. Not only does the ban encourage risky drinking, it also creates a campus culture where young women are more likely to follow men into private rooms where there’s no one in easy reach to help them, if necessary. Though well-intended, the hard alcohol ban contradicts two of College President Hanlon’s core goals. It won’t make drinking habits healthier on campus, and instead of combatting sexual assault, the ban facilitates it.

— Jessica Lu ’18

In general, the hard alcohol ban is a good thing. I believe, as do many, that Dartmouth has an issue with binge drinking. Restricting access to hard liquor will help with that issue, but it will not do everything. It is not a cure-all to what ails us. Students can still get hard alcohol. Students can still get blacked out on beer alone. It will, however, make it harder for students to get dangerously intoxicated, especially when it is applied to fraternity tails and first-year pregames.

Really, we will not know how effective or ineffective the policy is until it is implemented. The College and Safety and Security, can choose to enforce it any number of ways. They can zealously and aggressively pursue all possible cases. They can burst open doors and search under beds. I would consider this means of enforcement a gross violation of privacy, and I think many would agree.

On the other hand, the College could use the policy change to stop frats from serving liquor to whomever they choose, and to force first-year pregames — which often become loud enough to be broken up — to stick with beer. They could choose not to seek out the kind of private, moderate consumption of liquor about which they would never know.

This arrangement would be neither unreasonable, nor unprecedented. Current standards of enforcement often include tolerating some underage student consumption. On walkthroughs, Safety and Security do not think there just happens to be twice as many cups of beer sitting on tables than there are 21-year-old’s with bracelets.

The ban is somewhat invasive, but it will do good. If its enforcement can focus on alleviating dangerous drinking and avoid unnecessary invasions of privacy, then it will be a good policy.

— Michael McDavid ’15

Since coming to Dartmouth, I have witnessed countless young adults stumble across campus, up and down staircases and in the sweltering basements. Sometimes it’s all in good fun, and sometimes it ends with an assault or alcohol poisoning. While I think College President Phil Hanlon’s heart is in the right place, enforcing this ban is going to be an uphill battle. If there is anything I have learned from the millennial generation, it is that they love breaking the rules almost as much as their parents did in the 1960s. The alcohol that isn’t stuffed into closets and trunks will likely be stashed in off-campus apartments — where Hanover Police may have jurisdiction, but only with probable cause.

It’s time that students learn to drink responsibly, but that’s not going to be accomplished by limiting them to beer and wine. Cocaine and marijuana are illegal substances, but if you think they aren’t present on this campus, you’re either living under a rock or spending too much time in the stacks. If students want the hard stuff, they will have it. With the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” plan, President Hanlon has seemingly forgotten that the bulk of the student body is both smart and relatively wealthy. With those powers combined, people generally get their way.

Hard alcohol isn’t all bad either. Talk to enough body-conscious people, and some will say that they prefer vodka and juice over beer to maintain their figure. It also allows for people to build a tolerance and discover their limits. If the ban could actually be enforced, we’d have graduates who don’t have a clue about what they can handle when they go out into the world and discover what nightlife can be. Ultimately, you can’t change what students want.

— William Peters ’15

Some of the sharpest criticism of the liquor ban has been a product of confusion. The ban is not prohibition — Keystone will still flow freely in fraternities, for better or worse. As a cursory glance at the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” presidential steering committee’s report will confirm, the point of the ban is not to reduce sexual assault. It is to reduce high-risk drinking. According to the committee’s report, other schools that have tried out the policy, including Bates, Colby and Bowdoin Colleges, have seen decreases in alcohol-related medical transports. If Dartmouth’s ban causes a similar decline, denying underage students the unhealthy habit of consuming liquor with impunity is a small price to pay. If you’re over 21, just walk yourself to the bar when you want shots of the hard stuff.

— Jon Vandermause ’16

I think the hard alcohol ban is here to stay, and while the method of its implementation could be open to discussion, its existence is not. Students and organizations alike need to recognize that the time to decry the ban’s existence — and the illogical basis for its inception — is behind us. The way forward lies in being flexible within this new, extant framework. Stop complaining about the hard alcohol ban, and start predicting and engaging with the potential downstream effects that will result from it.

— Aylin Woodward ’15

The College’s recent hard alcohol ban seeks to address the two-headed monster of binge drinking and sexual assault — but intent and result are two very different things. Rather than collaborating with student organizations and learning what social life in Hanover is really like, the administration has chosen a punitive route for its premier scapegoat — the Greek system, and specifically fraternities. Most hard liquor is consumed in individual college dorms, and to trace such activity is next to impossible due to logistical and financial constraints. Administrators and students both know this, and those who want to drink will still drink. Rather than supporting and rewarding measures that would make social spaces safer across the board — sober monitors, kegs to control alcohol flow, party packs, etc. — the College made the cowardly decision to appeal to public relations and do something, even if that something is a transparent, feeble attempt at solving the real problems at hand.

— Kevin Xie ’15

Though the hard alcohol ban may not prevent a significant number of students from serving or drinking hard alcohol, it may help decrease the number of people who have to go to Dick’s House or Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center because of it. Regardless of the ban, the people who are the most determined to drink it will surely find ways to do so, similar to those who continued to make alcohol during Prohibition. These are the people who would drink with or without any regulations, and the College would be hard-pressed to create policies that will stop them.

As far as creating a better media image for Dartmouth, however, the ban has had mixed results. The hard alcohol ban has definitely garnered attention for the College, with multiple news sources and other college newspapers reporting on and analyzing it. This attention, though, is not all good — in reporting the ban, several outlets also reported other negative aspects of Dartmouth, including several reports of fraternity hazing. This additional press may have appeased the worries of some parents of the College’s reputation as an alcohol-heavy school, but in the long run it may just generate more negative media for Dartmouth, especially among younger people.

— Ziqin Yuan ’18