Verbum Ultimum: Accepting Responsibility

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 3/3/16 6:56pm

It has been roughly one year since the campus-wide ban on hard alcohol was implemented. Last winter, College President Phil Hanlon announced the policy shift as part of the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” initiative. Beginning last spring, students in possession of alcoholic beverages containing more than 15 percent alcohol by volume were subject to stricter action by the College. The new policy was intended to create a safer, healthier campus culture. By outlawing hard alcohol, the administration hoped to curb high-risk behavior and address issues such as binge drinking and sexual assault. However, whether the new policy has accomplished what it set out to do remains debatable.

Much of the discussion about alcohol on campus has been centered on this ban. Students discuss its efficacy, its enforcement and its fairness in fraternity basements and dorm rooms across campus. In lock-step with these discussions, students swap tales of rowdy revelry over Sunday dining hall brunches. While the majority of these tales are about harmless drunk exploits — embarrassing texts, bad selfies, minor scrapes — some stories would definitely raise eyebrows outside the Dartmouth bubble. Getting blackout drunk and peeing in a trash can is not socially acceptable behavior, but such exploits rarely elicit more than an a brief wrinkle of amusement-tinged disgust from many students.

While peeing on other peoples’ property may seem like a fairly minor transgression in the scheme of college misbehavior, our willingness to let “Well, it’s okay because I was drunk” be a blanket excuse is concerning.

If we, as a student body, continue to excuse drunk misbehavior solely on the basis that the transgression were committed while intoxicated, we perpetuate a cycle of irresponsibility.

To be clear, the intent of this editorial is not to blame victims. No level of intoxication makes victims responsible for their assaulter’s actions. Rather, we seek to remind all students — regardless of their involvement in the Greek system — that being drunk isn’t an excuse to be destructive, violent or hurtful. All too often, alcohol is used as an excuse for poor, even dangerous, behavior. We attribute actions that do not represent us in the best light to being drunk. It doesn’t take much to realize that such rationalization is problematic. When we consume alcohol, we are no less ourselves. We are still responsible for each and every one of our actions, and it is incumbent upon us to act accordingly. Being drunk does not absolve of us of personal accountability.

We need to stop blaming it on the alcohol and own up to our actions. Having too much to drink does not give us license to act in a way that jeopardizes the well-being of others. Even science has confirmed this fact. A 2011 study from the University of Missouri found that we are still conscious of our behavior while intoxicated. We just tend to care less.

As Dartmouth students, we need to care more. If we want administrators to treat us like adults, then it is time for us to take responsibility for our actions. The stale excuse of intoxication has gone on far too long and we must take ownership of our actions and the consequences of those actions. While the administration may be at fault for supporting a alcohol policy that fails to get at the root cause of high-risk behavior, it’s time for us to step up. Only by doing so do we have any hope of making tangible progress and truly moving Dartmouth forward.

The Dartmouth Editorial Board consists of the Editor in Chief, the Publisher, the Executive Editors and an Opinion Editor.

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!