Alcohol Policy Done Wrong
Length: 1183 words (3.4 double-spaced pages)
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When I was elected Interfraternity Council Treasurer in December of 1997 I knew I was in for a long semester, but I never knew what might evolve. I was elected in the wake of alcohol problems across the country. The only alcohol problem I knew of that had happened at the University of Arkansas involved a fraternity on bid day (the day when new freshman receive their invitation to a fraternity house). It involved two students that drank so much alcohol that they had to be rushed to the hospital. Both students were released from the hospital and the fraternity was placed on alcohol probation. I happened to be a newcomer to that fraternity as well and all alcohol probation meant to the fraternity was that they had to be a little more careful about where they drank alcohol in the house.
The University of Arkansas has been very lenient in the past about enforcing the alcohol policy. The University’s policy is dated February 22, 1974. The policy states, “Possession and use of intoxicants in public areas of University facilities (including organized houses) and at official University functions held on campus is prohibited. Persons of legal age as prescribed by state law regarding alcoholic beverages may possess and consume these beverages in the privacy of assigned student rooms. Irresponsible behavior while under the influence of intoxicants is not condoned and may be subject to review and/or action by the appropriate judicial body.” There has been a lot of criticisms to the alcohol policy. First, the fact that it was written in 1974 attracts a plethora of criticisms. I feel that many things have changed since the 70’s and the alcohol policy should also change. Another thing that attracts criticism is the way it has been forced. I have seen pictures in the University of Arkansas yearbook from 1970 that show members of fraternities sitting on the roofs of their houses drinking beer out of the can, which is a direct violation of the alcohol policy. I have also heard rumors that in the 80’s kegs were clearly present throughout the fraternity houses.
The next thing I would like to mention is the sudden change in enforcement of this alcohol policy. I have been on this campus for three years and I have seen an abrupt change in the way administrators enforce the alcohol policy.
For example, in my first year at the University if Arkansas anyone who came to the fraternity house could walk around the house and drink in any part of the house. When I returned for my second year at the University of Arkansas, the enforcement of this policy had changed drastically. The administration had decided that alcohol did not need to be present in the “public areas,” which it was not supposed to be anyway. So, the administration told everyone to drink behind the door of his or her own room. As you can see, they began enforcing a policy that they had not been enforcing for 20 years and did not try any alternative actions.
Some might ask what type of alternative actions could prevent what enforcing this policy could prevent. The main reason for the sudden enforcement of this policy was the death of a student at Louisiana State University and the death of a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. These deaths although tragic were very rare occurrences and can be blamed on the uneducated. The University could have begun with a mandatory alcohol education class. It would be very easy to teach and beneficial to both the students and the University. The University currently has a class that deals with alcohol and drugs that they could very easily expand. I feel that the University did not think strategically about the decision they made, or about how it could affect the students who wished to drink.
It is also important that we look at some data that was put out the same time that the University decided to make these changes. According to the Institute of Social Research (ISR), “percent of students who used alcohol in the last twelve months” is at the lowest point of any time during the seventeen years the data has been kept. Data was also collected on binge drinking. Binge drinking is consuming five drinks at any one occasion. The ISR also reported that binge drinking was at an all-time low. Students who reported drinking “five or more drinks at an occasion during the last two weeks” is at the lowest point since the data had been collected (1980). The ISR has also reported that drinking among high school seniors is also at an all-time low and that most college bound students carry their high school habits along with them.
I feel that it is the right of a college student to drink alcohol if they want to drink alcohol. One could argue that if they are not twenty-one then they cannot drink alcohol whether they are in college or not. But, the opposition must confess that an eighteen year old person is allowed to do a number of responsible things that would surely prove themselves to be responsible enough for alcohol. As an eighteen year old, you are allowed to vote. That is very important to the country. They are willing to let you vote for the President of the United States, but you cannot have a beer with a friend. Another thing that you are allowed to do as an eighteen-year-old is fight in a war for your country. It is amazing that our lawmakers feel that we are responsible enough to kill people for our country, but not responsible to drink a martini after dinner. A pessimist might say that these arguments are worn into the ground and should not even be considered. I bring these up because if students had the right to drink at eighteen, then by the time they got to college they would already have experimented with alcohol and found their limits.
When the University administration decided to start enforcing the alcohol policy, they decided that fraternities could have their parties off-campus as long as they informed the University of its location. One fraternity decided to follow the new regulations set by the University and informed the University of the location of an off-campus party. When the party started, the Fayetteville police showed up and shut the party down. It was later discovered that a University official had notified them of the location so that they could dispose of the party.
In conclusion, if the University of Arkansas administration does not feel that its students can handle alcohol, then maybe they ought to be teaching a class on handling alcohol rather than allowing students to sneak around and drink behind their backs. The University should also consider rewriting an alcohol policy that was written in 1974. Administrators must understand that if they are going to fight the students, then the students are going to fight back. The University officials have won the battle, but the war is far from over.