The dangers of making Colby an alcohol-free campus

Colby administrators have no doubt tossed about the idea that Colby should be an alcohol-free campus. After all, what could go wrong? Less students would be hospitalized, campus would be safer, and not having campus-sponsored drinking events could cost the school less. All this being said, if Colby were to become an alcohol-free campus, it would not be beneficial to students and could ultimately harm the administration as well. Colby’s move to an alcohol-free environment could foster more dangerous drinking habits, damage the relationship between security and students, and promote an environment that would not prepare students for the real world.

Banning alcohol on campus could create a series of unintended effects. If an alcohol ban was instituted, more and more students might venture off campus to drink. As students go off campus, drunk driving could increase as students become more persistent about getting access to alcohol off campus. Even if there was no drunk driving involved, Waterville police would be much more likely to charge students involved in reckless drinking. In the spring semester of 2013, 90 Colby students faced charges after attending a party in Waterville.  What should have been a fun night out ended in 90 court cases and statewide headlines on the irresponsibility of Colby students. Colby needs to not only keep students safe on and off campus, but also keep students out of the news. A better solution than banning hard alcohol outright would be setting up a larger and more reliable transportation system for students to get in and out of Waterville.

Another unintended consequence might be that the relationship between Colby security and students could be strained as students become more liable to get in trouble for what we now consider to be lighter offenses. Tensions are already growing this year as security’s increased access to dorms has made many students feel uncomfortable and untrusted by the school. In order for students and security to have a good working relationship, a relationship where security is not just there to get students in trouble needs to be established.

Students shouldn’t be discouraged from contacting security because of the repercussions of doing so. If there were a blanket ban on alcohol, students in need of hospitalization from alcohol-related illness would be much less likely to seek help as they would receive severe punishment if they did. Medical emergencies could go unattended as students could attempt to avoid getting probation at the cost of their health. Creating an alcohol-free campus and allowing more opportunity for students to get in trouble could hamper student relations with security, create a campus of mistrust, and lead to unreported medical emergencies.

If an alcohol ban were to be instituted, students of legal age would not be able to drink on campus. While this may not seem like a big deal, legal adults should be treated as such. College is supposed to be the time and place where students can legally be adults in a safe environment that sponsors learning and the development of self. Students are treated as adults in that they do taxes, they can vote, they are uniquely in charge of their own affairs; but to say that adults of legal age cannot drink on campus seems to negate all those facets of adulthood.

By saying that students who are legally able to drink are not allowed essentially shows that college students are still children in the eyes of the administration and are therefore should be managed accordingly. Colby would benefit more from treating their students with respect than treating them like children.

Colby has already been down this road of reforming alcohol policy on campus. After Colby instituted a hard alcohol ban in 2010, hospitalizations due to drinking have been down 20 percent. Though 20 percent is a marked difference in hospitalizations, has this policy really had a huge effect on dangerous drinking habits? In 2013, 11 students were sent to the emergency room less than a week into the first semester. While the general statistics seem impressive, alcohol abuse is still an issue even though hard alcohol has been prohibited. Banning all alcohol won’t combat the overall issue; this move could even put students in more danger of engaging in bad habits. By making Colby an alcohol free campus, we’re not stopping alcohol use, we’re just creating more consequences for it. The administration would be better off teaching students safe drinking techniques and giving them a safe and reliable environment to practice those habits without unnecessary and unrealistic repercussions.

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