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Drinking and Eating

Perhaps the saddest aspect of the Freshman’s experience is that he was drinking in a responsible manner. Yes, yes, what he was doing is illegal, but if you can’t get over yourself and accept that undergraduates will drink, let me commend you to Plato’s Symposium — “The Drinking Party.” Student drinking happens, it’s going to happen, and it has happened to excess since Ancient Athens. A realistic approach to life would argue for thoughtful and moderate enforcement policies, ones that seek to end dangerous behavior of the type that killed Matthew Sunshine at Northwestern — he and a senior engaged in a drinking game where each kept doing shots, but Sunshine did not know that while he was getting vodka, the senior’s buddies were pouring water.

In France, alcohol is virtually always consumed with food. The drinking age is 18, and my 16-year-old son reports, having observed this phenomenon at a distance, of course, that cafés will serve a mixed drink like a margarita to someone below that age, but only if the minor has ordered food.

The Freshman in yesterday’s post had a full meal with his margaritas and martini. He drank in a public place, and he did so over two hours or so. He was never disruptive or unruly. I can’t imagine a safer venue for consumption. Therefore, for GLOS staffer Ruth Kett to turn him in to the Hanover Police was not only vindictive, but her action, and S&S’ and Hanover Po’s prosecution, are an impetus to far more dangerous, surreptitious drinking, as a Dartblog correspondent observed in an e-mail to me yesterday:

Clearly, there was minimal risk involved in a dinner at Molly’s. One could make the argument that when the College goes to such crazy lengths to discourage moderate and responsible drinking, like in a restaurant with a significant meal, they put pressure on students to drink more heavily and in less open and safe environments.

Thus, there is arguably a tradeoff between safe drinking (with regard to health and safety) and safe drinking (with regard to getting caught). This is obviously the subject of much research and an underlying idea behind such movements as the Amethyst Initiative, of which former Dartmouth President James Wright is a part.

Another undergraduate amplifies the point:

Thank you for your recent two-part series exposing the current police-state of H-Po and S&S. As a member of [redacted] fraternity (please don’t publish my affiliation) I have felt their wrath firsthand over the past couple years. It’s mind-boggling to see the resources they devote to prosecuting 18-20 year old students who have had a couple beers.

To make matters worse, the investigative methods they employ have eradicated any trust that used to exist between Greeks and S&S. Safety visits used to be constructive, positive interactions between house leaders and S&S officers, but in recent times the brotherhood goes into panic mode whenever S&S is on the premises, lest they see a non-21 year old with a beer in his hand and put us on probation for another term.

Ironically, having a few drinks at Molly’s is one of the safest and most responsible ways a Dartmouth student can drink.

My read on this situation is that the Dean of the College needs to set standards and priorities at Dartmouth for all staff members, including GLOS bureaucrats, S&S officers and Dick’s House nurses — and these rules should not include the draconian, brutal prosecution of moderate drinking.

Addendum: The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health, describes the varied levels of alcohol consumption as follows:

NIAAA Binge Drinking Standards.jpg

Clearly the Freshman did not exceed these limits. In fact, after his meal, he might well have been below the BAC limit for driving of 0.08g/dL (0.08%).


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