Dartmouth’s misguided prohibition of hard alcohol

Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, recently adopted a campus-wide hard alcohol ban, announced by President Philip Hanlon in a speech to the college’s board of trustees. The new policy, which will go into effect March 30, bans all hard alcohol on campus and is a response to numerous assaults and fraternity hazing incidents. Although this ban is well-intended, it will likely be ineffective and possibly make matters worse.

Dartmouth, the inspiration for the iconic 1978 college party movie “Animal House,” has done little over the past decades to curb its legendary on-campus alcohol-fueled antics.

“You might think the problem [of drinking] wouldn’t exist, but it’s not true,” a recent Dartmouth graduate said who requested that his name not be included. “Dartmouth is the heaviest drinking Ivy League school, by far.”

The new policy will unfortunately do nothing to change that dubious honor.  First, the policy only prohibits hard alcohol on campus.  Beer, wine and any other “non-hard” alcohol is still permitted to flow freely.  A student bent on being buzzed can do so by abusing beer or wine.

In addition, this limited policy will be impossible to effectively enforce.  It does not take a student of Dartmouth-level intellect to figure out how to smuggle into a party a few bottles of Smirnoff among a dozen cases of Budweiser.

The hard alcohol ban in fact has a good chance of achieving the exact opposite of its intended effect.  Part of the allure of college drinking, and in particular under-age drinking, is the thrill of breaking the rules.

The recent Dartmouth graduate agreed: “This alcohol ban is going to do the opposite. It’s going to make drinking more rebellious, and kids might want to do it even more.  Banning hard alcohol will make it even cooler to them.”

The policy could have even further reaching negative consequences.

“The ban could drive [drinking] off campus,” political science teacher Christopher LePage said. “It could totally backfire.”

Finally, the perceived need for this new policy is philosophically questionable and best, and sad and disappointing at worst.

Dartmouth is one of the most exclusive universities in the country, supposedly admitting only the best and brightest the world has to offer.  These are the future business, political and thought leaders of our nation.  For Dartmouth to feel it needs to legislate basic morality and common sense among this elite group of students is a disappointing indictment of the state of our generation.  As future leaders, we should be capable of exercising our freedoms and making reasonable and responsible personal decisions without the need for more laws, rules and regulations.

The new policy may have resulted in some good press for Dartmouth, but it will do nothing to help solve its alcohol abuse issues or the underlying causes of those issues.