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A Grand Bargain on Alcohol?

No alcohol.gifWord is floating around campus that the administration might try to ban hard liquor (anything other than beer and wine) when the new social life rules are announced in the fall. Such a policy would follow the lead of Maine colleges like Colby, Bates and Bowdoin.

The idea is an interesting one for it seems to understand that the most significant change at the College over the last few decades has been the increasing prevalence of hard liquor on campus. Beer ruled the social world in my day, but as I have written before, when the administration outlawed fraternity taps serving fresh beer from kegs, the move led directly to pre-gaming with strong drink that could be easily smuggled into dorms (a bottle of vodka more easily evades the prying eyes of UGAs and S&S than sixpacks).

Such an idea might work if it were the object of a Grand Bargain between students and the Dean of the College’s office: students would accept and self-enforce a ban on the hard stuff in exchange for the return of taps at Greek houses (with no limits on the amount of beer served at parties — limits that are routinely cheated on today anyways) and permission to bring beer into dorms. S&S would stop interdicting such supply missions, and UGAs would not report beer/wine drinking by students (though UGAs could enforce the hard liquor ban).

Such a solution might not satisfy teatotalling absolutists, but it could lead to a reduction in incidences of blackout drunkenness and the myriad problems that result from severe incapacitation. It’s a lot harder to get loaded on beer (most beers fall between Keystone’s 4.2% and Bud’s 5.0%) and wine (12.5% to 15%) than on vodka/whiskey/rum (usually 40%).

One surprising counter-argument — at least for me — to the above idea is that women seem to prefer hard liquor to beer because vodka and other distilled drinks contain no carbs (a 12oz. can of Keystone Light has 5g); alcohol has a similar number of calories by volume whatever the vehicle used to convey it.

I wonder if the administration has the nerve to propose such a idea. Nitpicking critics will rail against the return of taps, to be sure, but the quid pro quo might be the basis for real progress.

Addendum: Memo to the IFC and Panhell: Go to Dean Ameer and propose this idea to her before she proposes it to you. You take ownership that way.

Addendum: An attentive reader writes in:

Your “Grand Bargain” essay is a good one. Some of the fraternities, like “TDX,” have had policies of not serving hard alcohol for some time. As your correctly point out, pre-gaming is a huge problem. If the College allowed the same social activity to occur in the dorms that it allows in College-owned sororities, then it would make the campus less dependent on the Greek system.

Lastly, President Hanlon should rename his initiative “Moving Dartmouth Backward”, as he is just rehashing the same hackneyed ideas of the Freedman/Wright student life initiatives.

I find it incredible that the College wants to promote experiential learning except when it comes to life skills, in which case it just wants to tell students what it thinks the answers are. Either Hanlon has no confidence that the College can help teach these skills or he believes the College is admitting students incapable of learning them.

Addendum: A rising junior adds a comment:

What prompted me to finally write in after keeping my opinions to myself was your post on banning hard alcohol. I have attended a few events this summer aimed at getting the Greeks’ perspective heard by the Steering Committee. One of my group of friends’ main ideas, one which we have expresses to members of the committee countless times, is to institute an open-door pregame policy in the dorms similar to the policy at Stanford and Vanderbilt. The idea is to only allow beer and wine at pregames, while having a policy in which UGAs can monitor the levels of drinking at the party with no repercussions for the students drinking (which they are going to do, no matter what the College says or does).

This plan cuts out hard alcohol in dorms where most of the reckless drinking is done anyways. Hard alcohol in Greek houses is less of a problem, as it is typically only in private rooms and thus generally out of S&S’s ever-watchful patrols. It seems like a no-brainer to institute this open-door policy, along with making sororities go local. The Greek system has to fix a social system that is entirely dependent on Greek houses to host parties, taking on all the risk, while getting yelled at with charges of exclusivity if steps to minimize risk, such as guest lists, are imposed.

Many of our ideas have been expressed to the committee, and we recognize changes must be made. However, the amount that they take our suggestions into account will surely shape the response by the students. We’ll see what the committee suggests (most likely on the day after The D stops publishing for the fall, before the six-week break with no students around to protest and before the winter term with one third fewer students than a normal term, so they can make these sweeping changes with as little backlash as possible).

Sorry to rant, but I feel like these are commonly held beliefs around the Greek community.


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