Is the hard alcohol ban responsible for excessive binge drinking?

After 13 transports so far this school year due to over intoxication, Colby as a community is forced to assess its drinking culture. What are we doing wrong? Where can we improve? How are people hitting such high levels of intoxication?

Binge drinking is definitely the source of these transports, and it feels as though it’s becoming more and more common.

One issue that could be to blame, and is consistently debated on campus, is the hard alcohol ban. This may seem  counter intuitive: banning hard alcohol should eliminate the problem of drinking too fast, right?

Wrong. Instead of promoting a “healthier” drinking culture, it promotes a hardcore pregame mentality. Muheb Esmat ’17, an alumni and the most recent class speaker at graduation, spoke to The Echo about his thoughts on the rule:

“My personal issue is it assumes everyone drinks beer.” Esmat explained that there are people who are gluten free, who realistically can’t consume beer and find hard alcohol to be the only substitute. He proceeded, “Besides my personal reason, I kind of see that rule as a problem for heavy drinking, since it forces people to drink their hard alcohol quickly and in huge amounts before going out so they don’t get caught outside.”

Esmat continued, “And let’s be honest, they can’t expect people not to buy hard alcohol so why not create an alternative rule that addresses the problem, not hide it behind doors.” Esmat made a fair point, as the ban doesn’t actually prevent hard alcohol from being on campus, but rather stops students from carrying it in public.

The ban also becomes an issue for those that have consumed hard alcohol on a night out and have become ill or realize they have drunk too much. Olive Silverman ’19 explained, “People who are in trouble who have had too much to drink are afraid to seek help because they’re aware of the ban and don’t want to get into trouble.” They’ll refuse to call for help knowing that they could get cited for having alcohol.

First years, knowing a ban exists, tend to take as many shots as possible before heading out to parties. They then often  hit a wall and become very ill or black out — calling CER, CA’s and occasionally ambulances into action.

If they do reach out for assistance, people will sometimes lie about what they have consumed to EMTs, claiming they consumed strictly beer in hopes of receiving less punishment. Feeling the need to lie to doctors and EMTs is very serious, but Colby students aren’t stupid. They’re scared. They’d rather lie and potentially put themselves at risk than get in trouble with the school because of a rule that hasn’t stopped their hard alcohol consumption.

At college, many students are over the drinking age and instead of learning how to drink mixed and other drinks responsibly, they’re being told they can’t consume it at all.

What’s even more bizarre is that a 21-year-old student isn’t technically allowed to have a handle in their room, but can go to the Blue Light Pub on campus and order a Grateful Dead, a combination of tequila, vodka, rum, gin, and raspberry liqueur. The school defies its own rules.

With students and even the College itself not following the hard alcohol ban, why continue trying to institute it? Why keep something that is irrelevant in the eyes of students? Sam Leppo ’21 proposed a reason: “It looks good to parents of prospective students. It’s a good tour guide response to the ‘party scene’ questions.”

This reason is valid, as many parents parting with their child believe that at least their baby won’t be drinking hard alcohol in this new college environment. Little do they know, this ban does not prevent it from happening.

This ban does more harm than good to our student body. Its existence is not in place to benefit the students and protect them from the effects of hard alcohol, but is a tactic to make the College more attractive to tuition paying parents. We can’t keep hiding the problem that is arising because of this rule. We need to acknowledge that 13 students needing medical attention is a high number and ask why it is happening. If we as a campus community want to better our campus drinking culture, an open conversation is the best place to start

  • Will Franklin

    I believe parents can — and should — play a bigger role as it relates to teaching their children how be responsible around alcohol (HINT: It includes getting and staying involved with your child). In fact, a recently published book entitled: “How to Prevent Underage Drinking: A Recovering Alcoholic’s 10-Step ‘Game Plan’ for Parents of Teenagers” helps parents do just that. Here is the link if you are interested: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0761FT53Y.