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Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services, and Russell Carey ’91 MA’06, executive vice president for planning and policy, sent out an email to students two weeks ago detailing the University’s response to the complaints of two students who, while at Sears House Oct. 17, were allegedly drugged. One of the students also reported being sexually assaulted. The email stated that the University intends to hone its alcohol policy to protect students and punish offenders. In the meantime, it has suspended the organization that hosted the event, and warns other organizations that any infraction of the alcohol policy would certainly result in suspension.

This turn of events begs the ever-pressing question: What role does the University have in regulating the behavior of student groups, especially when student group interests are pitted against the risk of harm befalling other students? It is clear, and the University reiterates, that students deserve a safe environment to learn and cohabitate, and that both date rape and drugging are impermissible under any circumstances. There are a few ways the University could achieve this goal.

Since the culture of college parties ostensibly creates a risk of harm, particularly with respect to drinking, perhaps the best amendment the University could make to college parties would be to dry them out — to make alcohol impermissible at parties, regardless of function or group type — for some reasonable amount of time.

While this first course of action is cut and dry, it preserves almost all of the autonomy (and the existence) of the social groups on campus. Parties, of all types, could still happen, and drinks and food could still be served under the strictures placed by the Undergraduate Council of Students, which are relatively prescriptive. This strategy would further the fight against sexual assault by subtly limiting the amount of alcohol students consume, and it would make any date-rape drugs in drinks blatantly obvious.

Pomona College enacts a similar policy, called “Substance Free Opening”: For the first two weeks of every school year, the Pomona campus is alcohol-free. Of course, infractions do persist, but this policy is thought to significantly reduce the amount of sexual assault on campus, especially as many sexual assaults befall incoming first-years during their first few weeks of school.

The policy need not be so firm. Perhaps the University could limit the Class F designation, which is given to parties that serve alcohol, to events whose main focus is not the party itself — fundraisers, improv shows and live music during student group-sponsored parties that might be called “mixers.” It could also mandate EMS presence at parties, the way it does at Spring Weekend and formerly at Sex Power God.

Drying out parties for a period of time could, however, drive people to drink in settings that are harder to moderate, like their dorms or off-campus parties. To minimize this shift while still tightening the faucet at campus events, the University might choose to get actively involved in supplying alcohol at parties. It could mandate that drinks be sold and a meticulous sales record be kept — maybe even tying Banner IDs to sales. Cost would set a fiscal constraint on party drinking.

The drinks could even be distributed by a third party, a professional bartender hired for an event who opens or makes the drinks and checks IDs. This would certainly cost more, and limit the number of student parties, yet it would make drugging harder. Or Brown itself could, like Syracuse University, obtain a liquor license and sell alcohol to students at parties with independent bartenders who would card and make drinks themselves.

However, these interventions, unlike dry parties, are intrusive, bureaucratic and expensive, and they still leave some risk of abuse of alcohol and date-rape drugging. And, by their very nature, they would also push some people to drink in spaces further removed from campus and monitoring. There are costs to all these approaches, and perhaps the one that promotes the greatest change to the culture of Greek parties would be to dry them out for a fixed period of time, to underscore the need for a more responsible and self-aware community at Brown.

 

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



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