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Editorial: Will Prohibition work at Brown?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Brown has banned alcohol from being served at any residence hall parties or fraternity events. Russell Carey ’91 MA’06, executive vice president for planning and policy, and Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services, sent a campus-wide email Monday announcing the sanctions in response to two campus incidents that took place last semester. On Oct. 3 at Sigma Chi, a student was touched without consent, and on Oct. 17 at Phi Kappa Psi, two students were incapacitated with date-rape drugs and one reported being sexually assaulted. Sigma Chi may not recruit new members or hold social events until fall 2016. Phi Kappa Psi has lost University recognition for the next four years, which means the fraternity will no longer have on-campus housing. The email also announced a comprehensive review of the University’s alcohol policies in order “to promote a safer environment on campus.”

We think this ban is a good idea, but this alone will not curtail sexual assault or improper behavior surrounding alcohol use. It will likely drive drinking underground, leading people to pre-game parties and get drunk quickly. It could also lead to a jump in reckless drinking and sexual assaults off-campus, which are much harder to police and prevent.

At the same time, the ban demonstrates the University’s commitment to addressing the problem. The two events featured in Carey and Klawunn’s email are undoubtedly not the only instances of sexual assault on Brown’s campus last semester. As the University takes a hard look at the daunting task ahead, students, faculty members and administrators have an opportunity to discuss the culture created by current campus drinking practices and which environments exacerbate sexual misconduct. Alcohol is not the only issue at stake in these situations, but it often leads to poor communication and decision-making and unwanted sexual contact. Reneging on the ban would bring us back to where we were before, with people’s needs not being met, students feeling unsafe and insufficient emphasis being placed on personal and communal responsibility.

There is also the question of how this policy will be enforced — another tall order. What will happen to students caught drinking at a party in a residence hall? What sort of disciplinary action will be taken? Will alcohol seizures follow? Questions like these will be answered with time.

We are hopeful that Brown can build a campus environment that emphasizes and promotes socially responsible behavior, starting with protecting students from sexual assault at parties at fraternities and elsewhere. Ultimately, we hope the discussions that arise from the University’s recent decisions will get students to think hard. Because it is not an easy thing to think and act responsibly. We also endorse the vision of a campus drinking culture in which alcohol is not imbibed in excess and communication and respect are central to sexual encounters.

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Alexander Kaplan ’15 and James Rattner ’15, and its members, Zoila Bergeron ’17, Natasha Bluth ’15, Manuel Contreras ’16, Baxter DiFabrizio ’15, Manuel Monti-Nussbaum ’15 and Katherine Pollock ’16. Send comments to

Editors’ note: Kaplan and Rattner, both members of Sigma Chi, recused themselves from the writing and editing of this editorial.

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  1. Yussef Barbary says:

    It will not happen as you say you hope. But you will not be disappointed because you do not really hope so. It will not happen because there is no concrete and specific plan. There is none because all the toilet paper has been used by Chris Paxson in crafting her brilliant strategic plan. Bottom line: the emails by Carey and Klawunn are just a lot of words.

  2. Robert Riversong says:

    Why not also simply ban sex on campus, as it is so often accompanied by confused or ambiguous consent, and so often results in regrets and even attempts at retribution or cover-up by later crying “rape”?

    But sex prohibition can be no more practical than alcohol prohibition (as we learned subsequent to the 18th Amendment), and utopian visions are too often enforced – as in the case at Brown – by draconian measures involving “guilt by association” and “guilty until proven innocent”.

    Why replicate Puritan attitudes and witch-hunt sanctions?

    For an in-depth expose of the evolution of universities from institutions of higher learning into witch-hunt tribunals for the “rape culture” advocates, see: New Puritanism – New Paternalism

  3. BDH says:

    “Oct. 17 at Phi Kappa Psi, two students were incapacitated with date-rape drugs”.

    WRONG! One tested negative for GHB, and has been written many times the two shared the one drink they had a Phi Psi. Therefore, the one who seemingly did test positive for GHB could not have been drugged at Phi Psi. If she was, both women would have tested positive.

    Will the editorial board at the BDH please start editing itself? The accusations are not proven by science, and in fact tests indicate that two students were not incapcitated with date-rape drugs at Phi Kappa Psi.

    You want to write a newspaper, then start being responsible with what you publish. And maybe start with a retraction and an apology to the fraternity in question.

    • They paraphrased the email from Russell Carey and Margaret Klawunn who write: “Phi Kappa Psi … held an unregistered party during which two students reported receiving an alcoholic drink that contained a date rape drug.” You’re right, there is contention around the validity of the test, but they did not say that Phi Psi members perpetrated the drugging. It could have been outsiders.

  4. The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution had ushered in a period known as Prohibition, during which the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages was illegal. Passage of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919 was the crowning achievement of the temperance movement, but it soon proved highly unpopular. Crime rates soared under Prohibition as gangsters, such as Chicago’s Al Capone, became rich from a profitable, often violent black market for alcohol. The federal government was incapable of stemming the tide: enforcement of the Volstead Act proved to be a nearly impossible task and corruption was rife among law enforcement agencies.[1]In 1932, wealthy industrialist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. stated in a letter:

    When Prohibition was introduced, I hoped that it would be widely supported by public opinion and the day would soon come when the evil effects of alcohol would be recognized. I have slowly and reluctantly come to believe that this has not been the result. Instead, drinking has generally increased; the speakeasy has replaced the saloon; a vast army of lawbreakers has appeared; many of our best citizens have openly ignored Prohibition; respect for the law has been greatly lessened; and crime has increased to a level never seen before.[2]

    As more and more Americans opposed the Eighteenth Amendment, a political movement grew for its repeal. However, repeal was complicated by grassroots politics. Although the U.S. Constitution provides two methods for ratifying constitutional amendments, only one method had been used up until that time; and that was for ratification by the state legislatures of three-fourths of the states. However, the wisdom of the day was that the lawmakers of many states were either beholden to or simply fearful of the temperance lobby. For that reason, when Congress formally proposed the repeal of Prohibition on February 20, 1933 (with the requisite two-thirds having voted in favor in each house; 63 to 21 in the United States Senate and 289 to 121 in the United States House of Representatives), they chose the other ratification method established by Article V, that being via state conventions. The Twenty-first Amendment is the onlyconstitutional amendment ratified by state conventions rather than by the state legislatures.

  5. Editorial: Will prohibition work at Brown?

    Answer: No.

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