Dartmouth College Bans Hard Liquor, So Everyone Is Probably Going To Booze Off-Campus Now

By 01.30.15

Liquor and the college experience traditionally go hand-in-hand, for better or worse. When you have the best night of your life singing Nelly’s greatest hits at the top of your lungs on a sweaty basement dance floor, it’s the greatest night of your life. When something bad happens, though, like someone drunkenly breaking the skull while trying to swim in a shallow fountain on the quad, it’s for the worse. And usually the latter what the media latches onto. And those are the stories that craft a school’s public reputation.

Dartmouth College, a prestigious Ivy League school in New Hampshire, has had a less-than-prestigious reputation as of late when it comes to alcohol-related incidents. A lot of people chalked this up to being the college that inspired Animal House at first, but then it got more and more nefarious. And serious. It certainly isn’t the only school in the country with such a reputation, but it most definitely has one. Via the NY Times:

Dartmouth has had a string of embarrassments involving binge drinking, and it has hardly been alone. The sexual assaults, fraternity hazing and hospitalizations that have rocked campuses around the nation have often involved extreme intoxication, like the case of the former Vanderbilt football players convicted this week of raping an unconscious woman, or that of a Stanford swimmer accused of rape this week.

So the school is taking things into their own hands and banning liquor from the campus.

Philip J. Hanlon, the president of Dartmouth, has warned of the damage done to the college and its reputation by serial misconduct, and on Thursday, he announced a far-ranging overhaul of campus life. It is possible, he said, that individual fraternities, or even the Greek system as a whole, will be banished. But it was a new rule that was not proposed as hypothetical — the prohibition on hard alcohol in the spring — that drew the most attention and most sharply divided opinions on campus.

Say goodbye to those pre-games!

As of March 30, when the spring term begins, Dartmouth will prohibit any liquor on campus that is 15 percent alcohol — barely more than most wine — or more. Dr. Hanlon said the college would increase penalties for providing alcohol to minors, but the details of that, and the penalties for violating the hard-liquor ban, remain to be worked out.
College officials cited the prevalence of “pregaming,” getting drunk before a party, and conceded that cracking down on such private drinking would be harder than policing parties.

I question how successful this will be at stopping people from drinking. This isn’t going to keep your student population from doing shots of Fireball off-campus or sneaking it into the dorms, behind closed doors. It might keep it publically out of the fraternities that dominate the school’s on-campus social life, but people who want to booze are going to booze.

Jake G. Rascoff, a senior, said there was no denying that abuse of hard alcohol posed a serious problem, but that banning it would be ineffectual. “It will increase the incidence of surreptitious binge drinking and increase the risk of binge drinking off campus, which will lead to drunk driving,” said Mr. Rascoff, who is an executive editor of The Dartmouth Review. If the college is to ban hard liquor, he said, it should ease limits on the amount of beer and wine at fraternity parties and relax penalties for violating alcohol rules.

Dartmouth isn’t the first school to do this recently, too:

In recent years, a small number of colleges, including Bowdoin, Bates and Colby, have adopted hard-alcohol bans similar to Dartmouth’s. (At the University of Mississippi’s main campus, the situation is reversed because of local laws: Beer is forbidden, but not stronger drinks.) A somewhat larger number, including Stanford, Colgate and Swarthmore, have banned hard liquor in certain places and at certain kinds of events.

I’m not so sure about the whole “it will increase drunk driving” things (can Dartmouth not afford an off-campus drunk shuttle?) but I do know that just because hard liquor is “banned” at your school it means absolutely nothing. I went to Penn State, where technically hard liquor was banned campus wide, ESPECIALLY from the fraternities. Even the ones that were technically off-campus but still had Greek affiliation. Penn State is even the school that the New York Times cites as a liquor ban more or less being bullshit.

But the rules about alcohol are just one factor in a college’s atmosphere and reputation. Pennsylvania State University has a fairly strict alcohol policy, including a prohibition in residence halls, yet it is routinely rated as one of the most raucous party schools in the country. Some universities have strong policies but lax enforcement, and at many of them, fraternities own their houses and the land beneath them, putting them out of reach of college policy.

If you lived in the dorms at PSU, well, you’re most likely not of legal drinking age as a freshmen or sophmore, so OF COURSE technically it’s banned. But going off campus to drink was easy, as it is in most college towns. It sounds like that won’t be so easy at Dartmouth, where all frats and housing is associated with the university:

Dartmouth has the advantage that its fraternity houses sit on college property, and geography may provide another advantage. The college’s isolation in west-central New Hampshire means there are few nearby options for off-campus imbibing, and its hometown, Hanover, has a reputation for serious enforcement.

Let’s hope this prevents some of the awful incidents that have happened out of Dartmouth over the last few years.

And if you think it’s some serious -ish, consider a silver-lining to the situation, if you want to call it one: The liquor ban from Dartmouth’s administration is in lieu of a complete ban on fraternities at Dartmouth that they originally wanted to pursue. So frat Bros can always be happy that their school didn’t go full thermonuclear on Greek Life, like other schools have in recent months in the wake of various controversies.


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