Alcohol Forum: A Dry Campus?

In response to the findings of the latest alcohol survey, Dean Collado and President Liebowitz organized a forum on Alcohol this Tuesday in McCullough. The audience was packed (probably due to the event’s subtitle: “Is a dry campus the only answer?” but regardless of intention, it was exciting to see the student body so passionate and committed to enacting campus change).

Collado will work with students to address specific solutions in the near future. Email her at scollado at middlebury dot edu to get involved.

(To self-promote) you can read my more serious spin on all things d-rank related in the Op-Ed section of this Thursday’s The Campus.

Until then, what do you think? Here’s your chance to reform actual policy (Mr.I-emailed-Obama-all-my-ideas-for-the-budget…I got that lousy autographed headshot too. I don’t care that you have a dreamy smile Mr. President, I was trying to share with you all my AMAZING IDEAS). You can also see here what Colby College proposed in order to assuage their dorm damage (Note: It involves roller blades and blow jobs).

Ideas I liked from the forum (and my own brain):
• Liebowitz acknowledged the need for a multi-pronged approach: Academic Stress, Public Safety, Social Spaces/Events
• Reform of Public Safety policies regarding citations, interactions with registered parties, noise complaints and general breaking-up of events
• Amend process of registration for parties
• Incentify social houses to create events prioritizing responsible drinking in communal spaces
• Include education on dorm damage and subsequent tuition hikes in first year orientation.
• The effect of academic intensity on drinking habits must be taken into account. This institution is accelerating in its scholastic achievements and the social scene changes radically with each freshman class. Surely the rising rates of first-year drinking correlates to the decreasing percentage of applicants we accept.
• Those who commit violence or damage under the influence should be punished for committing violence and damage, not for drinking.

Read up on the current alcohol policy here .
Read Ron’s views on the forum here


8 thoughts on “Alcohol Forum: A Dry Campus?

  1. The effect of academic intensity on drinking habits must be taken into account. This institution is accelerating in its scholastic achievements and the social scene changes radically with each freshman class. Surely the rising rates of first-year drinking correlates to the decreasing percentage of applicants we accept.

    I agree with all your bullets except for this one. I don’t think that having a lot of work is a viable excuse to drink a lot – in fact, I’d think that as we get “better” as a school we would have a higher population of people who are smart enough to know to drink responsibly and not throw rocks through windows. There are more constructive ways to blow off stress than getting drunk out of your mind. I think the problem is more that we have created a culture where people feel like they HAVE to drink to excess in order to have fun or be accepted or whatever cliche alcoholedu thing you want to throw in there. And I don’t think that’s a problem we as a college can solve, because it’s part of the nation-wide mentality that college is where you party all the time.

    So I’d say for now just focus on properly punishing property damage. In econ you learn about how property rights are essential to making sure common resources don’t get exploited – we need to find some way to make students feel accountable for their actions.

    I don’t know what this way is.

  2. I agree that work shouldn’t be blamed for alcohol consumption, but I do think that the culture we’ve created around intense academic pressure produces a large amount of anxiety and depression on this campus that is manifested in unhealthy ways.

    I don’t think that our irresponsible relationship with alcohol has anything to do with smart or stupid. I don’t think we drink at school (solely) because we’ve been conditioned to think college is where you party. I think its indicative of a mindset in which alcohol is something to be consumed exclusively during the weekend, at parties, to forget about what we struggle with throughout the week, and that is something that can be addressed in a discussion about academic priorities. We need to find less extreme ways of considering the ways in which we work as well as the ways in which we play.

  3. What if we stopped giving special preference to athletes in our admission selection. I imagine most of the dorm damage comes from drunk athletes. And it has been proven that athletics programs actually cause liberal arts colleges to LOSE money, not gain money, so the argument that we need these athletes for the college’s endowment is simply unsound. (I’m not arguing that we cut sports programs, by the way, just that we stop giving athletes special preference in admissions.)

  4. I think we need to be careful about making generalizations about people. The category of Athletes has a HUGE range of people in it. I’m not sure that our admissions policies are necessarily something we can blame the alcohol and dorm damage issue on either (although I admit my own ambivalence about that issue). In any case, pointing fingers isn’t going to be helpful.

    I think in addition to our workload stress, it should also be pointed out that Middlebury is often found as a place where it seems like you have to put on a face and be happy even when you aren’t. It seems to me that a lot of internal emotional issues get held inside and because we are still kids dammit and most families are so dysfunctional they are causing the emotional problems as much as they are supporting us getting through them… well, my point is in addition to academic stress there is also a culture of “happy” which gets in the way of us being able to be and feel in a “real” way, so people use alcohol to help them “forget” things…

    My personal solution is heavily biased and mainly consists in the suggestion that everybody take a dance class, which obviously isn’t viable, nor would it solve the problem.

    But if pursuing creative endeavors (music, dance, poetry, drawing, etc) weren’t so damn stressful on top of academic work (esp. the performing arts which are the most cathartic anyway), then, you know, maybe the project for Creativity and Innovation would provide an outlet for these pent-up emotions and tools for dealing with them and with ourselves that was actually meaningful, instead of being something taken up by those of us who are insane enough without doing art that we know we have to make that time.

    So maybe if the encouragement of non-artists to pursue artistic endeavors were part of orientation?

    Because quite frankly, if I didn’t sing and draw and take dance classes I’d maybe resort to alcohol in risky amounts, too.

  5. Raising the drinking age has not helped. I watched the increased enforcement in the late 1980s (when VT leaped from age 19 to 21) convert a relatively modest party scene on campus, where behavior was generally responsible (with always a few nuts) turn into one where the classification shifted from “adults to be trusted with booze” to “kids who couldn’t”, and the latter began quickly living up to the expectation. Students from Europe, with there dramatically more reasonable system for alcohol which has them learning to drink among (generally) more responsible adults from a comparatively young age were simply dumbfounded by their American peers. Kids in the U.S. back in my day learned to drink by hanging out with their peers having become expert at dodging parents and other authority figures who were legally expected to stamp out the activity or call the police. Role models for the impressionable teenager having his/her first drink? The classic peer group system for imprinting behaviors: Good job, Teetotalers and MADD abolitionists. (MADD unfortunately lost sight of their real mission: eliminating drunk driving, vs. becoming a youth abolitionist movement that contributes to our national dysfunction, IMO.)

    By my Jr. year in (year three of age 21 in VT) the term “dorm damage” became commonplace as underage drinking was increasingly driven behind closed doors and into hard booze (so students would get their fill before going out because they were very likely to get “shut down” at most events, which by then were driven onto campus from a once thriving bar scene).

    I should add, the harder the more draconian the enforcement, the more degraded the common response you get from the youth. Societally we’ve gone from the comparative harmlessness of kegs, to more easily concealed beer cans, and on to hard liquor, then to other drugs, and now pharmaceutical mixing and matching. Good job MADD!! Should have kept the battle confined to drunk drivers vs. prohibition.

    To EJ’s point above, this pattern I’ve outlined creates a refuge for younger minds that otherwise would be far less inclined to find. Youth my age would never dream of seeking the mixed chemical buzzes of today’s teens and college students.

    But to that point, there is also revealed a glaring gap: the complete and utter lack of spiritual centering among so many in today’s society that people choose to self medicate and abuse with various substances, booze or otherwise. And so you get a doctor to prescribe some legal drug to help you through and you don’t figure it out on your own? In many ways that’s just a controlled and constant buzz many youth seek, only from a different angle. More and more studies show that finding spiritual centering through meditation and yoga, etc., fill the void and remove the need and desire for intervening with medication, self prescribed or otherwise.

    An all this gets back to my prior point: abolitionism always creates a worse result than the initial problem. Moreover, it fails to address the problem from the real standpoint: what’s missing in so many people’s lives that they turn to foreign substances to find fun and/or solitude, or meaning?

  6. College to create Task Force on Alcohol and Student Life | MiddBlog

  7. Drinking alcoholic drinks is really not allowed inside the campus, I don’t know about your university but in the university I graduated from they don’t allow such activity inside the campus and once caught you will surely pay for the consequence of your action. As we can see, there are youth programs that will surely help teens avoid the habit of drinking alcoholic drinks and I think universities should consider them in their programs.

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