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Alcohol Enforcement: Still the Ivy Outlier

This space has written before on the Town’s aggressive alcohol enforcement and the supposed changes that happened in calendar year 2015. We’ve used Clery Act statistics (see here and here, for example) to track the wax and wane of both Town’s and the College’s liquor law enforcement. With statistics out for the 2016 year, let’s take a look at the new numbers and compare them to the rest of the Ivy League.

Here’s a snapshot of arrests by law enforcement and disciplinary actions by the College from 2001 onward. Arrests and disciplinary actions in 2016 are both down slightly from 2015, but still hugely up as regards College discipline from what we might call the Jim Kim period (2009-2012). Of course, there’s no reason to think that student behavior has changed, but the College’s posture towards enforcement surely has:


The trends in College enforcement are interesting. Disciplinary action by the College dropped throughout the 2000s only to rise again under Phil Hanlon’s Moving Dartmouth Forward initiaive. Meanwhile, the number of arrests in 2016 — while still substantial — is lower than at any point besides 2011-2012. But how do we compare with the rest of the Ivy League?


One can’t but help conclude that alcohol enforcement in Hanover, both by the College and by the Town of Hanover Police, is overzealous compared to our peer institutions. While Dartmouth has the smallest student population in the Ivy League (but not for long, if Phil gets his way!), it still leads in arrests by a wide margin. Consider that even with supposedly less aggressive enforcement by Hanover Police, more students at Dartmouth were arrested on alcohol violations than at Cornell and Penn combined, despite those two schools having nearly six times the number of undergraduates. In fact, only 48 students in the rest of the Ivy League were arrested in 2016 compared to 40 at the College.

The numbers look slightly better in terms of institutional disciplinary action. Dartmouth is still far and away ahead on a per capita basis, but Penn seems to have fairly vigorous enforcement as well. And because of Penn’s much larger student body, it’s ahead in absolute terms.

Why does this matter? Alcohol enforcement by the College, though it may be a nuisance to students and a waste of institutional resources, is not really that much of an issue in the grand scheme of things. Unless someone is both stupid and unlucky enough to be hit by the hard alcohol ban multiple times, the impact is minor.

Arrests, however, are more problematical. Beyond the cost both in time and money of dealing with an arrest, they could very well have long-term consequences. In particular, as we’ve pointed out, applicants to law schools are often required to disclose arrests even if their record has been expunged or sealed.

It’s clear that Dartmouth is still the outlier here. What is the administration’s and the Town’s goal in hammering students. When will they ever learn the lessons that most of the other Ivies understood long ago: using a stick just won’t have much effect on this problem.

More changes are in order.

Addendum: The abovementioned disclosure requirement, to the best of my knowledge, does not typically exist for employment or other graduate schools. Law schools have the most stringent disclosure requirements because of the character and fitness requirement of state bar associations, which will also ask about records that have been expunged or sealed.

While a minor character and fitness issue such as an a alcohol violation typically does not preclude admission to either law school or the bar, it’s still a barrier, especially if it’s recent, and when compared to other candidates who might have an unblemished record, despite years of excess in a place like, say, New Haven. Does anyone really think the reason that not a single Yale student was brought up on university disciplinary charges regarding alcohol in 2016 is because Yalies don’t drink?


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