Alcohol Policy

by Lily Newhouse

Does Elizabethtown College’s alcohol policy encourage drunk driving? Undoubtedly, the administration would respond with a resounding “no.” But realistically? It’s possible.

Administrators who defend the school’s alcohol policy would also condemn binge drinking – it’s unhealthy, dangerous, and often leads to deteriorating academic performance. But anyone who has been to college knows that binge drinking is the norm.

Page 59 of the 2007-2008 Student Handbook states that “individuals 21 years of age or older may possess alcohol for their personal use in their own living space. The maximum quantity allowed within any housing unit is not more than one six-pack…of beer, or one liter of wine, or one four-pack of wine coolers, or one pint of a distilled alcohol per of-age resident.”

Let’s look at this:
There is a 21-year-old Elizabethtown senior named “Joe.” It’s Friday, and Joe wants to get smashed. Joe’s a Miller Light guy. Being a regular drinker, he cannot achieve his desired state of intoxication – becoming “s–t faced” as Joe likes to call it – from one six-pack. But he doesn’t want to violate the school’s alcohol policy, either. So he drives to the bar. At the bar, Joe drinks Miller Light all night. Then he has to get home.

Joe has a couple of options. He could call a friend, hoping that someone he knows is free to pick him up and is sober. He could call a taxi. There are taxi services in Steelton and Harrisburg, which may take as long as an hour to arrive on a weekend night. Or, Joe could drive.

Obviously this is just one scenario, but it is one that probably happens just about every weekend. Thanks to school policy, Etown students go out to bars – and, let’s face it, how many people are willing to be the designated driver while their friends all get roaring drunk?

Now, this may seem like an inevitable dilemma. The college can’t allow unlimited quantities of alcohol on campus, right? But, this problem does not happen at all schools. Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. is a liberal arts school in a small town, just like Etown. Their alcohol policy is simple: students over 21 are allowed to drink in their dorm rooms. There is no limit, only the requirement that they not serve anyone under 21 and that “behavior that violates the living and study rights of other residents is unacceptable.”

Ironically, Carleton’s policy specifically states that “the College recognizes the particular danger of driving while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Therefore, students are expected never to use such substances and drive.” Carleton allows unlimited (but responsible) drinking on campus to keep students from being tempted to drive drunk.

There is another option. Students who go to school in major cities have public transportation at their disposal – whether it’s the Metro in DC, the subway in New York, the T in Boston, or a public bus system. Students don’t have to worry about driving drunk. They ride drunk and let the city do the driving.

Elizabethtown College is not in a major city, but students in small town colleges can be given safe options, as well. Skidmore College is a college of about Etown’s size in Saratoga Springs, NY. Skidmore provides a van service that runs all the time. It loops around campus and then into town. One of its stops is on Main Street, walking distance to the bars in town.

The administration may say, “We don’t want to encourage drinking on campus.” They may say, “We’re not paying for a van.” But what they’re really saying is, “If you drink off campus and get in a drunk driving accident, that’s your problem.” Is that doing what’s best for the students or the town? Is that the kind of college we want?

When Will We Stand Up Like Daniel Ellsberg

by Lily Newhouse

“A coup has occurred,” said Daniel Ellsberg in a speech at Elizabethtown College. Ellsberg, who is famous for releasing the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971, does not argue with President Bush that our country is in danger. He firmly believes we have enemies – but they aren’t Muslims or terrorists. They’re enemies of the U.S. Constitution “and they happen to be the President and Vice President.”

For a few years, I’ve tried to ignore the Bush administration’s actions – they were too depressing. But hearing Ellsberg, I realized that it’s our responsibility to do something about it.

At one time, Ellsberg was a Pentagon employee with 12 clearances above the “top secret” level. On the very day in November 1964 that Ellsberg was planning the massive bombing of Vietnam, Lyndon Johnson was being elected President on a platform of “no wider war.”

But that lie almost seems small in comparison to those the Bush Administration has spun since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 – leading us into a hopeless war with the wrong enemy.
“It would be like after Pearl Harbor we’d bombed Mexico,” Ellsberg said.

But don’t worry. In case we’re getting bored with the “enemy” Iraq, Ellsberg said, the odds favor an attack on Iran in the near future.
He’s right – America is being lied to. We believe the lies, and we believe a lying administration is saving us from our enemy.

Well, the enemy is internal. Democracy is being destroyed from within in order to “protect” us from terrorist activity. And hey, it’s for the “good” of the nation if not the whole world. After all, we saved the Iraqis from an oppressive regime, didn’t we? (Never mind that we supported Hussein for years and sold him weapons – for his war against Iran!) And who needs a Constitution? Wouldn’t we much rather be safe than have a Fourth Amendment?

When Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers, he was attacked for betraying his country. “I’ve been called a traitor a lot, and you never really get used to it, even if you know that it’s the opposite of the truth… even if it’s the president endangering American lives.”
Ellsberg may have taken an oath of secrecy, but he also took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States – the same oath that everyone in Congress has taken. In fact, he thinks that he betrayed his country by waiting so long. “I broke that oath in ’64 and ’65 in every week that I kept my mouth shut,” he said.

So where are the whistle blowers today? Secrecy may be necessary to protect national security, but it shouldn’t protect government lies. In a government “of the people, by the people, for the people,” shouldn’t the people have the right to know what is actually going on, why we’re really at war and why we are heading towards an even greater one?

Apparently not. So, here’s the question Ellsberg asked: what are we going to do about it?

Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania Citizen Journalism