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article imageDartmouth campus bans hard liquor in crackdown on binge drinking

By Megan Hamilton     Feb 1, 2015 in Crime
Hanover - In an effort to stem sexual violence that has become prevalent on many college campuses, Dartmouth College is banning hard liquor on campus.
The college will institute more on-campus social alternatives to partying in the hopes of curbing this problem.
In a speech on Thursday morning, college president Phil Hanlon said the school will now ban all hard alcohol (any that is 30 proof or 15 percent alcohol by volume) from its campus in Hanover, New Hampshire. This excludes beer and wine but includes the hard stuff. Hanlon also said the school will roll out a new housing system and will find ways to create on-campus social alternatives to partying, Mashable reports.
"When it comes to a safe environment — and one that is advantageous to learning — we know that excessive drinking is one of the most pressing challenges we face," Hanlon said in the speech.
One option the administration considered was getting rid of fraternities and sororities from the campus entirely, but ultimately decided on a set of strict reforms, he said. "Pledging," the probationary period that new recruits undergo and where hazing often occurs, will be banned.
Hanlon took action last spring when Dartmouth saw applications for the next school year dip by 14 percent. He attributed this to "extreme and harmful behaviors" that tarnished the school's reputation. So he asked a committee of students, faculty, and alumni to offer up ways to combat this behavior.
"We can no longer allow this college to be held back by the few who wrongly hide harmful behaviors behind the illusion of youthful exuberance," he said at the time.
The committee put together a report that studied the prevalence of hard drinking and sexual assault at the school and drew up solutions, Mashable reports.
One solution? Last year, Dartmouth revamped its policy regarding the handling of sexual assault with mandatory expulsion in some cases along with an independent investigation process. The campus also began offering bystander training in the hopes of preventing incidents from occurring and Hanlon said the college will release a safety app.
Dartmouth, along with scores of other colleges, faced a Title IX investigation over complaints that accusations of sexual violence were mishandled. One article published by Rolling Stone regarding a gang rape at the University of Virginia prompted universities to rethink policies regarding sexual violence. An investigation conducted by the Washington Post called important details into question and much of the article has been debunked.
The ban on hard liquor goes into effect this spring, and it has people divided regarding how effective it will be.
Jake G. Rascoff, a senior and editor of The Dartmouth Review, said that although there's definitely a problem with hard alcohol abuse, banning it will be ineffectual, he told The New York Times.
"It will increase the incidence of surreptitious binge drinking and increase the risk of binge drinking off campus, which will lead to drunk driving," he said. He believes that if the college bans liquor, it should ease limits on the amount of beer and wine at fraternity parties and relax penalties for violating alcohol rules.
Chester Brown, a senior who is the president of the Beta Alpha Omega fraternity, has a different opinion. He said that although "the ban will create a pretty significant shift in the way that we operate," and many students will object, he nevertheless favored it.
"It's important to recognize that the alternative here is abolition of the Greek system," he said.
The Atlantic reported there are plenty of reasons to be pessimistic about this:
"The reasons for pessimism are plain enough to anyone who's ever lived on or visited an allegedly dry campus or dormitory. While an administration can drive drinking underground, banning it altogether is more of a symbolic move than a truly effective one. (What are they going to do, search everyone's bags when they reach campus?) Just as abstinence-only sex education has proved a bust, trying to ban hard liquor altogether seems unlikely to succeed; it will just make the culture of hard-liquor consumption less informed, or push it to locations away from campus, where the college has even less chance to safeguard students."
Anticipating Hanlon's announcement, the student newspaper, The Dartmouth addressed this point:
"If students want to get dangerously drunk, they will find a way to do so. Rhetoric about eliminating the epidemic of binge drinking is neither realistic nor helpful. Binge drinking is a symptom of an unhealthy culture and at times indicative of underlying mental health issues, and Hanlon's policy should reflect that."
Restrictions on hard liquor are unusual, Kevin Kruger, the president of NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education told The Washington Post.
"You wouldn't find that on most campuses," he said. The focus on the high octane alcohol makes sense because "most of the really horrific things that happened related to alcohol happen with hard alcohol. ... It just takes too much beer to get there."
There is no doubt that binge drinking has been a serious problem for campuses nationwide — colleges like Bowdoin, Bates, and Colby have also banned hard liquor just as Dartmouth is going to do, The New York Times reports. The University of Mississippi has a rather unusual situation due to local laws. Beer is banned at the campus, but not the stronger stuff. Other colleges, including Stanford, Colgate and Swarthmore, have banned liquor at certain events and at certain places.
Brown University has been reviewing its alcohol policy, after reports of sexual assaults at two fraternity parties. The university slapped a four-year ban on one fraternity and placed the other on probation.
Officials at Dartmouth report that dangerous drinking on the campus has declined in recent years. Data shows that incidences of extreme intoxication — involving students whose blood alcohol concentration is higher than .25 — have dropped considerably. Seven such incidences were reported in the fall of 2013, according to a college health program, and that's down from 36 three years earlier. Dartmouth, however, wants to eradicate the problem.
Hanlon, in a telephone interview with The Washington Post, defined his goals. He wants to see a college "where students are 24/7 learners, where intellectual growth occurs outside the classroom ad much as inside the classroom." So, he says, Dartmouth is creating a system of residential communities to take effect when freshmen enter next fall. It's "probably the most transformative item" in the college's reform plan.
Freshmen will be randomly assigned to one of six communities, and each will have a faculty adviser and affiliated graduate students. Details regarding the design of the communities haven't been worked out yet. Hanlon wants students to feel a connection with these communities that lasts for years, even if they move into a fraternity or sorority or housing that's off-campus. This way, the communities would complement, but not replace the tradition of Greek life on campus, he said.
He did however, give fraternities and sororities a warning:
"If the Greek system as a whole does not engage in meaningful, lasting reform, we will revisit its continuation on our campus."
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