A group of about 50 to 60 students purchased nearly all the alcohol in Hotung’s mini-fridge on Jan. 24 to illustrate the need, and desire, for a space on campus for those of legal age to drink. Currently Hotung Caf?© is the only place to “get a drink” on campus.
The reason only a single location exists to purchase alcohol at Tufts is not because there is insufficient demand, as students of all ages, and especially those who are legally able, want to drink on campus. The reasons are associated with the supply, or university policies that have increasingly encroached upon the legal consumption of alcohol on campus. Although getting off campus is fun, and I encourage it, it’s also a hassle and expensive to drink in Davis, Harvard and Boston regularly.
Despite the fact that Tufts recently revised its alcohol and drug policy to implement a student-advocated “Good Samaritan” policy, which says that no one who seeks treatment for themselves or others will receive disciplinary action, according to the Tufts Student Handbook, the university has also modified its policies to slowly eliminate on-campus spaces for students to legally drink.
My class year will be the last one to have experienced homecoming with university-sanctioned tailgates, spring fling with permitted drinking for those who are over 21 and, of course, the Naked Quad Run (NQR). It also will be one of the last to have a Winter Bash where a 21+ area was available. I understand that indecent student behavior prompted the university to eliminate these events. I will not excuse that kind of conduct. However, I am willing to bet that most of the incidents in question involved students who heavily “pre-gamed” and are unfamiliar with responsible drinking because they were underage.
Abolishing these events, or eradicating access to alcohol at places such as Fall Ball or Winter Gala, will not solve the problem of excessive, underage drinking; it simply ensures that mentions of it don’t end up in the papers. The policies merely guarantee that underage drinking continues behind closed doors, further off campus where students are far from the university infrastructure meant to protect them.
So what does the university hope to achieve if it succeeds in heavily limiting access to alcohol on campus? A culture shift away from drinking? A pat on the back from the Board of Trustees or better relations with local citizens? As Anna Burgess points out in her Observer article “Buzz Kill: Is Tufts Out of Control or Overly Controlled,” “while the local community may see us as a nuisance at times, they don’t see us as belligerent or irresponsible neighbors.” The administration claims student well-being is at the heart of any of these policies. But the reality is that students, under or over age, will never stop drinking, because students (unbelievably) grow up to become adults, who drink. When we graduate we will be invited to after-work drinks with our colleagues, networking events, conferences and dinners, where our handling of alcohol will be judged. Thus, promoting responsible drinking is not only common sense, since consumption of alcohol is integral to American adult social culture, but it also keeps students’ well-being in mind.
I challenge the administration to be creative and forward-thinking if they hope to influence students’ drinking habits to even a minor extent, and consider a campus bar, for example, as a serious initiative. By pushing drinking culture further underground and off campus the university forsakes an opportunity to promote positive drinking habits and jeopardizes student safety. History has proven that prohibition didn’t work; the 21st Amendment did.
Carolina Reyes is a senior majoring in international relations. She can be reached at Carolina.Reyes@tufts.edu.