Ah, the joys of Fall Quarter at Northwestern – the sight of wide-eyed freshmen entering their dorms for the first time, Frisbee at Deering Field and, of course, the inevitable mention of alcohol safety and responsibility.
Every year, NU’s administration attempts to curb dangerous alcohol-related incidents, namely by cracking down on drinking on campus. Although the university’s efforts are well intentioned, the policies currently in place could be creating a less safe environment for students.
Fraternities have long been considered hotbeds for irresponsible drinking habits, alcoholic orgies and uncontrollable parties. As a result of a few alcohol-related problems, the administration gradually revoked the “wet” status of several houses. Currently, there is only one fraternity on campus that is allowed to serve alcohol under NU rules.
Yet revoking alcohol-serving privileges in fraternity houses has certainly not halted undergraduate binge drinking. Instead of throwing university-sanctioned (and alcohol-free) events on campus, many students are compelled to relocate their drinking endeavors to off-campus residences. The mass migration has led to two trends: students are drinking in less-controlled and less-contained off-campus residences, and those living in residence halls have become inclined to “pregame” to ensure a “buzz” at a dry on-campus event or crowded off-campus party where alcohol may be scarce.
Besides increasing risk of muggings and drunk driving, often out-of-control off-campus events have also served as a major distraction for Evanston residents looking for peace and quiet. These developments have lead to more police in surrounding neighborhoods and fewer on campus. A police force whose mission is to keep NU students safe should not have to worry about breaking up a party.
Undergraduate binge drinking is a complicated topic where no individual should claim to know all of the answers. The university obviously means well in striving to keep its students safe, but when certain policies aren’t working, why not try a different approach?
A more calculated policy would allow all fraternities to serve alcohol, but only under very strict rules. All alcohol-related parties would have to be registered with the university, and only licensed vendors would be able to serve age-verified students. Far fewer students would be overserved, fewer underage students would drink and, in case of emergency, most of NU’s drinking crowd would be in a more consolidated area. Although the administration may worry about students under 21 living in fraternity houses, such students are just as likely to binge drink at an on- or off-campus party anyway.
Instead of dictating rules with inconsistent results, the administration would be better served to create a committee consisting of administration members, NUPD officers and students to rework alcohol policy. Although administrators don’t need to know how to play beer pong in order to stop it, getting input from students is certainly worth a shot.