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?