Abuse It, Lose It
When I first stepped onto Colby’s campus, I breathed the fresh Maine air and tasted freedom on the tip of my tongue. At college, I thought, I could do whatever I wanted to. Life was a game and I made my own rules. If I wanted cereal for dinner, I could eat cereal for dinner. If I didn’t want to do my laundry, I didn’t have to do my laundry. If I wanted to stay in bed all day, I could stay in bed all day.
In 2008, caught up in this kind of a spirit, 14 students were transported to the local hospital for alcohol-related reasons following a celebration by seniors on the last day of classes. That summer the Board of Trustees asked the administration to look for possible solutions. Hard alcohol consumption was the only reason for these transports and therefore the recommendations of a campus committee that included seven students to ban hard alcohol made sense to the trustees.
It makes sense to me, too, as a concerned student in this community. I am all about the freedoms of adulthood, but with freedom comes responsibility. If students can’t handle it, they don’t deserve it.
This kind of ban isn’t unusual on college campuses nationwide. In fact, many of Colby’s peer schools have similar rules. But try to introduce it on a campus with an atmosphere of independence and students’ self-governance. It isn’t easy. Still, as the committee discussed the possibility of such a ban in the 2008-09 academic year, students came out in support of an environment free of hard alcohol.
With student opinion and support, that committee made suggestions that it believed would change the drinking culture. Among the 10 recommendations, two caused the most controversy: one that called for a ban on hard alcohol and one calling for a new alcohol policy. This new policy, it recommended, should be more transparent and should be able to deal with a campus free of hard alcohol.
At the beginning of this academic year, a new group was formed to create the policy. The result removes the ambiguity of the current policy and creates a graduated system of sanctions designed to distinguish between “hard alcohol” and “beer and wine.” Since its release to the student population at large, some have criticized the new policy for being too soft on alcohol violations and some have criticized it for being too harsh.
But does a hard alcohol ban mean, as some students fear, a literal hard alcohol ban? I don’t think so. Students here are smart—once we know the rules, we are usually able to figure out how they can be bent. Students and administrators acknowledge that hard alcohol will not disappear entirely. But we hope that dangerous drinking habits will. That is where this new alcohol policy fits in. In an easy-to-read chart, it tells you exactly what the rules are, what the penalties are, and what happens when you’ve bent the rules too far and entered the realm of dangerous drinking.
In the coming academic year, this campus will be (at least publicly) hard alcohol free. With two years of lengthy discussion and student surveys behind us, that decision is final. The administration and a large part of the student body agree—hard alcohol is not conducive to a healthy drinking culture. So to what degree does this new policy deserve the harsh criticism it received?
In my opinion the criticism lacks careful consideration and genuine concern for the student body. The main reason for the change is that history, records, and statistics show that the current drinking culture is not healthy. The mistakes we, as students, have made here need to stop. There is nothing fun about the smell of vomit in a bathroom. There is nothing amusing about damaged dorms. There is certainly nothing entertaining about a trip to the hospital. And because these are our mistakes, we need to take full responsibility for them.
On this campus some students believe that the first order of business is to have fun (although I know our professors would disagree). But when that fun comes at the expense of health and safety, then something needs to change. Now we’ve got new rules that will change the way we play but, at the same time, will encourage safer play.
As a student here I sometimes forget that, although I can make my own rules, I also have to live by the ones this prestigious institution and this gorgeous state of Maine have set for me. I understand the urge we have to break rules, but, at some point, you’ve got to ask yourself: Do I really want another bowl of cereal tonight? Is that funky smell in the hallway coming from my room? Am I missing out on everything going on outside of my dorm?
At some point you’ve got to ask: How will I play out my time here?