Dartmouth to Ban Hard Liquor, Introduce Residential Communities


Dartmouth College has banned hard liquor on campus in an effort to reduce misbehavior caused by over-consumption of alcohol.

This gives Dartmouth the distinction of joining a small group of peers willing to make such a change, and Dartmouth is not the only school that has had recurring embarrassments surrounding binge drinking. Last week former Vanderbilt football players were found guilty of raping an unconscious woman, and a Stanford swimmer was charged with rape.

Richard Pérez-Peña of The New York Times writes that Dartmouth will probably not be followed by many institutions. Some schools are completely dry, mainly because of religious affiliations, and the colleges that allow hard liquor have not moved to ban it.

“I think you’re going to continue to see smaller efforts to step up enforcement, but not a lot of big statements like this,” said Kevin Kruger, the president of Naspa, a national association of student affairs professionals in Washington.

Kruger says that hard alcohol has played a harmful role on campuses, but it all boils down to the fact that most college students are under 21, and 21 is the legal drinking age.

Douglas Belkin of The Wall Street Journal writes that the ban on hard liquor is not the only change being made at Dartmouth. There has long been the possibility that fraternities, or even the Greek system as a whole, could be dissolved. A Dartmouth fraternity, after all, was alleged to be the inspiration for the raucous college film Animal House.

Senior student Jake Rascoff is quoted as saying he understood that hard alcohol abuse is a serious problem, but that enforcing a ban will be difficult.

“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.

Chester Brown, another Dartmouth senior and president of the Beta Alpha Omega fraternity, thinks the ban is a good idea, especially if the removal of the Greek system is the alternative. At any rate, on March 30, when the spring term begins, the college will not allow any liquor that contains 15% alcohol or more, which is barely more than most wine.

There will also be increased penalties for underage drinking, along with a drafting of codes of conduct for students, fraternities, and other groups. Other regulations at Dartmouth include forbidding the sorority and fraternity pledging period when hazing can occur, and the initiation of a four-year sexual violence prevention program.

As part of that program, the school will offer an online “consent manual”, writes Matt Rocheleau of The Boston Globe, outlining what is acceptable and what is not in regard to sexual behavior. Hanlon calls the plan “Moving Dartmouth Forward” and adds that it is a compilation of recommendations from a special committee of students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

The University of Virginia, Swarthmore, Bowdoin, Bates, Colby, and Brown have all adopted new policies on alcohol consumption on campuses. Allegations of improperly handled complaints of sexual assault are being investigated on nearly 100 campuses. Dartmouth faced a 14% drop in applications two years ago after a series of sexual assaults were reported.

Another requirement in the plan is the demonstration that all residential student organizations agree to promote inclusivity. Additionally, Dartmouth will institute efforts to address binge drinking, launch a smartphone safety app, and add six residential communities for new students to create an additional social space, according to Tyler Kingkade of The Huffington Post. Many of these new programs will begin in the fall.

“None of our recommendations alone will magically transform the choices students make in their actions and behaviors,” the report said. “In fact, it is not clear how much power institutions of higher education have to impact these behaviors, given their prevalence in the greater society. But it is certainly incumbent on Dartmouth to do all it can to counter them and to make our campus as safe and inclusive as possible.”

Hanlon believes that the most important element of the new programs is the creation of the system of residential communities. Freshmen will be randomly assigned to one of six communities, each with a faculty adviser and affiliated graduate students. The president hopes that these areas will help students feel a connection with the people in their community for years to come.

Nick Anderson and Susan Svrluga, reporters for The Washington Post, write that the communities will complement the Greek tradition on campus, not compete with it.

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