College bans on hard alcohol have risen in prominence recently. In just the last year, both Dartmouth and Stanford have introduced bans of some form. Other colleges have implemented similar bans in previous years.
In this atmosphere, it is appropriate to reconsider Trinity’s existing prohibition of “hard” alcohol in upperclassmen residence halls is appropriate. Currently, students 21 and older are only allowed to possess beer and wine in their rooms. This policy of prohibition is ineffective and it should be abolished.
It’s necessary to consider why hard alcohol is prohibited in the first place. Trinity’s alcohol policy web page does not indicate the rationale behind the ban, so I’ll put forward two reasons that I think are fair. One, hard alcohol, by virtue of its greater alcoholic content, better facilitates heavy drinking and intoxication, whether deliberate or accidental, and all the mental and physical issues that follow. Two, hard alcohol is more likely to produce situations that lead to sexual assault.
The first reason really misunderstands the mindset of college students. If I want to get drunk and only have beer, then I’m going to drink a lot of beer, even if I’d prefer hard alcohol. I know people, including myself, who get just as irresponsibly drunk from beer or wine as from liquor. It’s like having a class in Chapman instead of Marrs McLean. It may be harder for me to get there, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to skip class.
The second argument is flawed for the same reason as the first. Students will still get drunk off of beer and wine and blurred lines of consent will still be an issue. Moreover, sexual assault is a product of a twisted mindset that exists within a person, with or without hard alcohol. Indeed, while one-half of all sexual assaults is associated with alcohol, one-half of all violent crime in general is associated with alcohol. Hard alcohol is no special culprit here. The better approach, which the school has already implemented, is sexual assault awareness and active bystander training.
Of course, the biggest issue with the hard alcohol ban is that it doesn’t work! In my time at Trinity I have never met a single person in the upperclassmen residence halls (and underclassmen residence halls, for that matter), 21 or otherwise, who doesn’t keep hard alcohol for fear of breaking the university’s prohibition. The most that happens is that I make more frequent trips to the liquor store instead of buying in bulk, just in case I get busted. At that point the only real effect of the hard alcohol ban is making me spend more money on gas and more of my time buying booze instead of studying. It’s bad for the environment and productivity!
Unfortunately, long-term studies on the actual efficacy of hard alcohol bans don’t exist yet, but Aaron White, senior scientific advisor to the director of the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, has said that the best policies are those that restrict access or increase the price of alcohol. Trinity’s prohibition on hard alcohol has no effect on the prices at the liquor store (or Don’s and Ben’s handy student discount) and in no real way restricts students’ access to hard alcohol.
Lastly, let’s consider the fact that many students consume hard alcohol casually and not to excess. It can be just as nice to have a strong drink after a test as it is to have a cold beer. Other students of legal age may enjoy learning how to make various cocktails and mixed drinks in their dorms. After all, you can’t make a White Russian to go with “The Big Lebowski” without vodka.
Hard alcohol has a recreational purpose beyond excessive intoxication and students of age shouldn’t be denied their legal right to it. Taken together with the fact that Trinity’s prohibition doesn’t solve the problems that might warrant its existence and doesn’t actually stop students from possessing hard alcohol, it becomes clear that the policy is both ineffective and somewhat harmful. Trinity should restore full alcoholic freedoms to students of age and end the prohibition against hard alcohol in upperclassmen residence halls.