Editorial: A Prohibition that makes sense

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Office of Campus Life and Student Services sent a Jan. 30 email clarifying the University’s new structures regarding alcohol use on campus. The email states that Brown’s alcohol policy is mostly unchanged and that the only newly prohibited activities are large-scale events — including those organized by Greek or program houses, those drawing more than 100 attendees or those requiring city permits.

While “informal gatherings” of students who are over 21 are permitted in dorms,  should a community disturbance — such as complaints or overcrowding — arise, it is possible that the Department of Public Safety could be called and disciplinary action could ensue, according to the email. Additionally, off-campus rules have not been altered. So other than largely removing the convenience of drinking at on-campus parties, the University has left many legal forms of drinking still allowed.

The University is following through with its stated goal of changing the context in which alcohol is consumed. If large parties cannot happen anymore, and there is a threat of punitive measures for holding an event that disturbs the community, behavior will change. The question is, how?

Obviously, drinking to excess could be pushed off campus, but we anticipate that not all of it will shift in this manner.  Fraternities are prohibited from hosting parties with alcohol — that includes off campus.  House parties at independent residences could, just as they could before, be broken up by either DPS or the Providence Police.  If every party is in a private residence —  assuming everyone who wants to party will just go off campus — then these off-campus venues will be overcrowded, run dry fast and be more likely to get busted.

The issue of spiking drinks remains. Yet  we anticipate that instances of spiked drinks will actually decrease because the setting and context for the behavior will be different.

While we do not wholly agree that disciplinary hearings should be on the table for creating a noise disturbance, if drinking did lead to sexual assault or destruction of University property, an appropriate course of action would need to be pursued.

So, in short, the new ban makes some sense. Insofar as Brown students need distance put between them and situations that have the potential to be dangerous, Brown has done it. But it hasn’t gone so far as to prevent these situations entirely, because limiting them entirely would seriously impinge on personal freedom.

College is about learning to live responsibly and self-sufficiently. Restricting access to alcohol isn’t the way to limit instances of sexual assault, but preventing and prohibiting contexts where sexual misconduct is likely to occur marks a decent start toward instilling a general sense of social responsibility.  That parties are curtailed makes sense. People will learn to conduct themselves well at more moderate social gatherings. The ban is  thus mature and evenhanded — the best compromise available.

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

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  1. Greek Alumni says:

    “Fraternities are prohibited from hosting parties with alcohol — that includes off campus.”

    How can Brown forbid a fraternity from holding an event off campus? Let me guess: If 2 guys from the same frat live together in a house and that house holds a party – even if it doesn’t use the letters or name the group – Brown will consider it “a fraternity party.” The clarification goes to show that this alcohol ban has NOTHING to do with actually addressing campus rape and everything to do with putting on a show by targeting the big bad greek system.

    • Agreed, but the Greek system created the context wherein these events happened. It’s not about ‘blaming’ the Greek system, it’s about curtailing harm. Individuals and organizations are not being held culpable, it’s like the way McDonald’s had to discard the Super Size. It’s about preserving freedom but also promoting safety. While the punishments could be considered Draconian, wouldn’t you rather protect people from assault? Also, if Brown were to find out about an off-campus event, given the sensitivity to the issue, I imagine frats or any social club or group of individuals who celebrate off-campus as part of a SAO-registered group could be quickly censured and punished. Caveat emptor.

      • Greek Alumni says:

        The QA openly admitted in bluestockings that SPG had become an event that facilitated sexual assault for multiple years. Why was the university silent then? The university doesn’t care about protecting students from sexual assault. It cares about protecting its image and targeting the greek houses does a lot for that.

        McDonald’s wasn’t forced to get rid of super size, they CHOSE to. I would have no problem if my greek house, like the QA, said that it was deciding on its own to stop throwing parties but that’s not what’s happening. The university shuttered one house and suspended another with minimal evidence to say that either house actually created an unsafe environment.

  2. The ban is a joke because the origin of the bad behavior is not alcohol, nor parties. It’s a culture and curriculum that doesn’t teach civility or morals, and is only bent on defining victims and victim classes. The place is a mess. Drink spiking didn’t even occur at the fraternity recently in question, but we have to ban all alcohol at all frats because the *point* is bigger than actually looking at the evidence. The university president, provost are all running from this, and somehow they’ve talked themselves into thinking students are safer, and civility will return by default.
    All a ruse, and will remain so until true open transparent conversations are restored on campus. That hasn’t been the case for a long time.

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