Should colleges be allowed to ban alcohol on their campuses?

03/04/15

Underage drinking is illegal, but is it a college administration’s right and responsibility to police drinking on campus? Two college students share their opinion.

Yes, colleges should be allowed to ban alcohol on their campuses

By Jessica Gross A private college is a business: students (or their parents) pay to receive a set of products, like housing, food, intellectual stimulation, and a diploma. Students can choose which school’s package to purchase. Just as people who want to use credit cards can forego restaurants that require cash payments, applicants can forego schools whose rules aren’t to their liking. And just as restaurants have the freedom to require cash payments on the understanding that they might deter business, schools can impose rules, like alcohol bans, on the understanding that they might discourage students from applying. Each school offers a different package of offerings. Brigham Young University, for instance, is a religious school, and students have to abide by strict rules “consistent with the ideals and principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.” But in choosing to attend BYU, students sign up for this. They’re paying for not just a BYU diploma, but also everything it takes to get one, including living “a chaste and virtuous life.” And not only religious schools institute strict rules. The University of Oklahoma, a secular school, implemented a ban on alcohol a few years ago after an alcohol-related death. Rules like BYU’s religious standards and OU’s dry campus are fair because students choose these schools’ products, rules and all, over any others. Instituting a ban on alcohol is just another way of tailoring a college’s package. As long as applicants know that a school’s campus is dry, they can choose whether to pay for that type of experience or apply to a different school. But, having established that administrations should be free to ban alcohol, let’s address the follow-up question. Why would a school want to do so? The knee-jerk reaction is to point to religious schools like BYU that ban drinking because it violates religious tenets. But there are a number of other reasons dry campuses could appeal to administrators. First, drinking alcohol under 21 is illegal. Yes, many college students drink anyway but officially, it’s against the law. Lots of college students smoke pot, also illegal, but that doesn’t mean campuses allow students to smoke up. Second, consider the applicant who doesn’t drink and hates to be around alcohol. Administrators might want to appeal to straight-edge types, or even those who just (gasp!) follow the law. And students like these should have options, too. Just as students should be able to pick a school with no alcohol ban, they should be able to pick a school with a dry campus. To say that no school ever should institute a ban on alcohol is to reduce the spectrum of applicants’ options to one segment of the market.

No, colleges should not be allowed to ban alcohol on their campuses

By Mike Dang During my junior year of college, my friends and I stood an hour in line one night to get into the campus pub. Generally, we’re not the type of people who would wait more than 10 minutes to get a pint of beer, but that night was different — after years of providing students with decent beer at decent prices, the pub was closing due to permit troubles, aka the administration was wary of renewing the liquor license. The pub’s demise meant our campus was going to be dry, and it was going to stay that way for a loooong time. With no place to get a drink on campus, students hopped in their cars and drove off to find an off-campus party or dive bar, and an entire section of campus life disappeared. It was like we were suddenly transported to the 1920s, when the Volstead Act ushered in prohibition, and Americans headed off to Canada or Mexico to get their drink on. Luckily, our government learned that banning alcohol was stupid, and in 1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt legalized alcohol again. Usually, when a college decides to ban alcohol, it means it doesn’t trust its students enough to make responsible decisions, so it makes an arbitrary executive decision to go dry. The college will cite statistics such as “more than 60 percent of college men who binge drink, drink and drive” as a reason to back up their ban, but really, banning alcohol on campus won’t stop college students from drinking and making poor decisions, it’ll just make them go off-campus to make those poor decisions. These colleges can then take the easy way out and say, “Well, they were off-campus — it’s out of our hands.” Alcohol bans are also an attempt to curb underage drinking, but here’s the thing. You know that law we have in the U.S. that says only adults aged 21 and over can buy and drink alcohol? Yeah, it hasn’t kept minors away from the bottle, and throwing a ban at them won’t either. College students drink — they just do. I bet that students are drinking at even the most religious colleges because they just can’t shake off the memory of how delicious that bit of church wine tasted during mass. So rather than trying to enforce a ban on campus that clearly failed as a law 80 years ago, colleges should be proactive and use other ways to keep students safe, like tougher punishments for students found drinking underage on campus, an entire week dedicated to learning about alcohol abuse, and providing students with late night shuttle services to prevent students from drinking and driving. Having alcohol in a controlled environment on campus has a lot of benefits. First off, colleges can make a profit from allowing vendors to come to campus and safely sell to students in campus bars and sporting events. That money can be used to support struggling department programs, given back to the students in the form of financial aid, or used to fund those late-night shuttles. Most importantly, from my personal experience, allowing alcohol on campus builds a stronger campus community. Students can head out of a midterm and then to the campus pub for a drink to unwind with fellow students. Even medical practitioners from the prohibition era realized that alcohol had medicinal value — that in the right amount, it could be downright therapeutic. College can get pretty busy and intense. Why would anyone want to deprive students of a little relaxation? What’s the party scene like at the college you want to attend? Find out with our College Search.

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