Letters to the Editor

Letter: Alcohol policy does not cause issues off campus

Thursday, February 26, 2015

To the Editor:

In the early 1990s, in response to a Providence municipal ordinance, the University began requiring student organizations to obtain Class F entertainment licenses for certain types of social functions where alcohol was served. Students argued that this change, which included having to charge entrance fees to these events, would drive social life- and alcohol-related problems off campus. We know this because the one of us who was a Brown student at that time made this particular argument to the then-director of student activities. That argument turned out to be wrong — there was no increase in off-campus problems related to that policy change. Nor has that been the case in the many instances where campus social function policy has changed (and improved) over the many years since.

We were disappointed to see the same argument made in Wednesday’s Herald editorial (“Reevaluation of interim alcohol policy,” Feb. 25). Relying on scant, anecdotal data and without any prior discussion with any of us, the editorial claims that the interim policy changes we announced on Jan. 19 “force students to socialize off campus in far less regulated environments” and implies an increase in off-campus related incidents as a result. On the contrary, we have not seen such an increase this semester, nor in prior years, of off-campus problems. Since the interim policies were implemented in January, one noise complaint has been reported to the Office of Residential Life. Since September, five noise complaints involving off-campus residences have been handled through the student conduct system, and last year there were eight for the entire academic year.

That is not to say there are no conflicts or tensions between students living off campus and the College Hill neighborhood, and the Office of Residential Life and Public Safety responds proactively to those situations. From time to time particular streets or houses are cause for concern, and we actively address and seek to resolve those problems as quickly as possible. It is not the case, however, that there has been an overall increase in off-campus incidents or that Brown students at large are a disruptive force on College Hill. The vast majority of Brown students who live off campus do so respectfully and as positive contributors to neighborhood life, a fact we hear regularly from College Hill neighbors.

The editorial also speaks, again without data, to concerns regarding planned growth in the student body. It should be noted that over the past several years the University has added nearly 300 beds to the on-campus residence hall inventory, through conversion and renovations to Wayland House, Metcalf Hall, Miller Hall, Vartan Gregorian Quadrangle and 315 Thayer, among other projects. The dean of the College is currently leading a review of the impact of planned growth on all aspects of campus life, including the residential and dining experience.

What is a fact is that the level of heavy episodic drinking reported by Brown students is higher than at peer institutions. The 2011-2012 survey by the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies revealed that 45 percent of Brown students reported having five or more drinks at least once in the past two weeks, compared to a national college population rate of 35.6 percent. Brown students reported a number of negative outcomes of alcohol consumption, including actions and statements individuals regretted, injury and health risks and missed academic obligations, among others.

This is the unsafe community behavior we are seeking to address through the current review of alcohol and social event policies. Students are an active part of the committee charged with conducting that review, and we invite all students, faculty members and staff members to engage in discussions based on data, evidence and experience aimed at creating and sustaining a safe, respectful, inclusive, vibrant and diverse social life on campus for all to enjoy.

Russell Carey ’91 MA’06

Executive Vice President for

Planning and Policy

Margaret Klawunn

Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services

Richard Bova

Senior Associate Dean of

Residential and Dining Services


  1. How ironic that you criticize the BDH for making arguments without data when you’re willing to shutter one fraternity and put another on an exorbitant suspension without any data yourselves.

    You people should be embarrassed. This whole situation is absolutely disgraceful. You don’t care about anything but punishing the greek houses. That’s why there was no reaction from you to the QA’s actual admission to hosting an event that facilitated campus rape and this policy only targets “student organizations” with no limits on individual students.

  2. The deanery wants us to use facts? I agree. But…

    1. Class F requirements for registering parties where alcohol was served on campus occurred in the late 1980s, not the early 1990s. Carey may have been at Brown at the time, but his recollection of dates is not so great.

    2. Deans Carey and Klawunn clearly ignore facts associated with the Phi Kappa Psi case, namely the fact that one of the two accusers tested negative for GHB thus meaning both women could not have been drugged at the fraternity as they shared their sole drink. So fact, Phi Psi was clearly not guilty of distributing “drugs” which somehow remained in the charge and associated sanction against it post the latest review. And they ignored the fact that they promised to publish the second woman’s drug test result and then never did when said results did not fit their narrative.

    When the deans who signed this letter spend their time actually working in the world of facts and not agendas, reputations and rear-end-covering, then maybe many of us will give some respect to what they write here.

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