A look at the alcohol policy one-year out

by Noah Goldstein | 3/2/16 8:15pm

[slideshow_deploy id='119959'] This is the first in a two-part series examining the College’s hard alcohol policy. The second piece will be published tomorrow.

The hard alcohol ban remains one of the most debated aspects of College President Phil Hanlon’s “Moving Dartmouth Forward” policy initiative. A year after it’s implementation, the success of the policy in “eliminating high-risk behavior” — its stated goal — remains an open question.

The Dartmouth released a survey to all undergraduate students to gauge opinions on the hard alcohol ban one year since its implementation. The survey was released twice over a span of two weeks, and received 1,745 responses. While the number of responses reflects approximately 40 percent of undergraduates, the survey was not weighted for demographic representation.

Of the 1,745 respondents, 80 percent indicated that they do not think the hard alcohol ban has been successful in lowering high-risk drinking on campus. Additionally, 85 percent of respondents said they have consumed hard alcohol on campus since the ban was implemented.

The ban on hard alcohol, defined as alcohol 30 proof or greater, came with heightened disciplinary sanctions for individuals and Greek houses or other organizations that are found in violation of the policy. Individuals who are found in possession of hard alcohol are placed on probation for a first violation and suspended for a second violation. The duration of each punishment, or number of terms, is not specified. Organizations that are found in violation of the hard alcohol policy will be called to judicial affairs for a hearing and must remain dry until the hearing begins. On a second violation, organizations risk derecognition from the College.

Of those that responded to the survey, 88 percent do not believe the penalties for breaking the hard alcohol policy are fair. Fifty-five percent of respondents also indicated that they knew someone who had been punished for hard alcohol consumption.

According to Judicial Affairs director Leigh Remy, 19 hearings were been called for individual hard alcohol violations in the period from March 30, 2015 through Feb. 11. Of those, 10 students were found responsible for breaking the hard alcohol policy, six were found not responsible and three cases remain open. Four organizations have faced hearing during the same time period. Of those, three organizations were found responsible for breaking the hard alcohol ban and one was found not responsible.

In terms of individual alcohol consumption, 80 percent of survey respondents said that the hard alcohol ban has not changed their drinking habits, while 15 percent indicated that they drink more times per week and 4 percent indicated that they drink fewer times per week.

Director of Safety and Security Harry Kinne said that these results did not surprise him.

“In any case, when something is prohibited, realistically there are going to be instances in which people — in the case of hard alcohol — have hard alcohol,” he said.

Kinne added that even if the ban has just created a situation where people are more careful when drinking hard alcohol, he sees that as a positive, as the “bottom line” is the safety of students.

“In other words, if [students] are concerned about the ramifications from having possessed hard alcohol, perhaps people are being more careful in consuming it.”

Senior associate dean of student affairs Liz Agosto also said that she was unsurprised by The Dartmouth’s survey data, as it falls in line with a number of concerns that students have raised about the ban, she said.

Alpha Theta gender-inclusive fraternity president Noah Cramer ’16 said that, prior to the hard alcohol ban, cocktails were the primary drink served at his house’s parties. The hard alcohol ban caused his house to swap cocktails for beer, cider and other drinks less than 15 percent alcohol by volume.

“We still feel like our parties are fun, successful, well attended [and] safe,” Cramer said. “It hasn’t caused a huge quality of life decrease, although it did change some of our party procedures.”

Cramer added that his house’s risk management procedures have not changed since the policy’s implementation last spring. If someone seems too drunk or rowdy, his house responds the same way as it would before, he said.

According to Moving Dartmouth Forward’s website, the ultimate goal of the hard alcohol ban is to foster a “safer and healthier campus environment.” Fifty-two percent of survey respondents said they think there needs to be measures in place that foster such an environment, while 25 percent indicated that they did not see a need for such measures and 23 percent said they were not sure. Seventy-six percent of respondents said that they do not think the hard alcohol ban helps foster a safer and healthier environment on campus. Eight percent of respondents said they do think the hard alcohol policy fosters a safer and healthier environment on campus, and 15 percent of respondents indicated that they were unsure of the effects of the ban on campus climate.

Agosto said that she was worried only 52 percent of students thought such measures were needed to be a healthier and safer community on campus.

The idea for the hard alcohol ban came after the Moving Dartmouth Forward presidential steering committee — made up of a variety of students, faculty and alumni — examined alcohol transports and discovered that hard alcohol was more often involved alongside wine or beer, Agosto said.

Student Wellness Center director Caitlin Barthelmes said that there were fears that high risk drinking may spike after the implementation of these policies, but data collected by the center indicated that alcohol-related incidents have either decreased or remained stable.

Comparing spring 2014 to spring 2015, which was the first term hard alcohol was banned on campus, alcohol-related incidents with Safety and Security went from 118 to 75, according to numbers released by the center. In 2012, there were 90 incidents; in 2013, 67. The number of Good Samaritan calls to Safety and Security decreased from 28 to 21, and the number of alcohol transports to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center or Dick’s House went from 90 to 54.

Between fall 2014 and fall 2015, alcohol-related incidents with Safety and Security went from 160 to 163. The number of Good Sam calls to Safety and Security went from 34 to 28, and the number of alcohol transports to DHMC or Dick’s House went from 90 to 62.

Barthelmes said that she was also looking forward to seeing data from this winter and next spring, as it will provide a better picture of the effectiveness of the hard alcohol ban.

She said that the College will be continuously sharing alcohol data online going into the future.

Kinne said that it feels like Safety and Security is dealing with less intoxicated students this year than in previous years, he said. He hopes this indicates that people are consuming less hard alcohol, and added that Safety and Security does not see hard alcohol policy violations often.

“We haven’t run into a lot of situations where we found hard alcohol,” Kinne said. “There have been some situations, but we have noticed that there is not an appearance of hard alcohol that we have become aware of in our routine activities.”

Comparing spring 2014, fall 2014 and winter 2015 — the last three terms preceding the hard alcohol ban — to spring 2015, fall 2015 and half of winter 2016, there has been a 17 percent decrease in the number of reported alcohol-related incidents occurring in Greek houses, a 50 percent decrease in the number of students who have been arrested, a 26 percent decrease in reports of public intoxication and the number of reported fights have gone from three to zero, according to a document given to The Dartmouth by Remy.

Associate dean for student life Eric Ramsey said that alcohol policies need to be continuously tweaked. He added that a survey regarding alcohol management will be going out to all Greek leaders, but did not specify when. He also said that he will be asking students to reach out to him with their concerns.

Agosto said that she knows that students will still drink or smoke even though the hard alcohol ban has been implemented, but she hopes the policy will at least make students think twice before engaging in risky behavior.

Multiple other Greek organizations and Dartmouth Emergency Medical Services did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

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