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Let us drink and be merry: thoughts on underage drinking at Bowdoin

March 2, 2018

This piece represents the opinion of the author.

Last week, the Brunswick Police Department (BPD), in effect, canceled the Cold War party. After noticing intoxicated minors quite openly carrying alcoholic beverages between Mac and Quinby, officers issued some warnings. To one particularly brazen student, they issued a court summons.

Now, to BPD’s credit, the behavior these officers witnessed was illegal. State law is clear on this matter: “Individuals must be at least twenty-one years of age to purchase, possess, or consume alcoholic beverages in Maine.”

I cite this law to say that I have no interest in arguing against it. Similarly, my problem is not with the Brunswick Police Department—the officers are just doing their jobs. My problem lies with the Bowdoin administration and the alcohol policy it has set forth.

When the Bowdoin student was cited on Friday, she is reported to have responded something along the lines of, under Bowdoin “laws,” she was allowed to drink. Putting aside how she said this to the officer, our Bowdoin student is not wrong in what she says. The College 100 percent condones underage drinking, and I challenge anybody who truly thinks otherwise to say as much with a straight face.

The primary role of a College House is to provide a safe drinking environment for underclassmen, who are predominantly underage. According to the Bowdoin website itself, “[College Houses] host campus-wide events from lectures and film screenings to apple picking trips and registered parties.” These registered parties are the point of contention here.

If you receive the “Weekend Events” email from Christian van Loenen, you will notice that anywhere from a third to a half of expected guests are said to be of age for any registered event. If you go to even one College House party, you will know that this is not true. Not even a tenth of these guests are of age, and this is nothing new. Bowdoin students know this, and the Bowdoin administration knows this as well.

So why then are just Bowdoin students liable for underage drinking violations? The current policy mandates that an Alcohol Host “takes full responsibility for alcohol at [an] event … and agrees to comply with Maine State Law.” This is straightforward enough, but the College itself is not even complying with Maine State Law.

“It is illegal to knowingly procure in any way and/or assist in procuring, furnishing, giving, delivering, or selling liquor to/for an intoxicated person.” We can argue over the semantics of whether or not the College is procuring alcohol to minors, but it is most certainly assisting in the procurement. Again, the College Houses are a highly-regulated system, and the Bowdoin administration is fully aware of the underage drinking occurring.

As Thomas Ezquerro ’18 said to Randy Nichols at the last BSG meeting, “If … with increased BPD activity at a College House party, I can be cited for furnishing alcohol to minors, at what point do I challenge your system and say that this isn’t providing me with the necessary safeguards?”

I second this strongly, and I fear that this is a growing sentiment across campus. Looking at this coming weekend, where there is an unintended repeat to the Cold War—Mac and Quinby will both be open on Friday night—the hosts of Mac have opted not to provide alcohol (to minors). They do not want to be liable if BPD were to come and enforce the law.

I sympathize with this concern, but I worry what would happen if this were to become a trend. If underclassmen were to drink more off campus, I have no doubt that our number of transports would increase and the general safety on campus would decline.

What then are we to do?

If I’m being honest, I do not know. I, personally, don’t even drink. However, as I value the safety of my peers, I would greatly prefer the College to take more responsibility in the matter of underage drinking. If this sounds vague, then understand that it is not my job to envision an alternative. As a student, I have the right to affirmatively state that the current system is not working and then get back to working on my degree.

Nathanael DeMoranville is a member of the Class of 2020. 

 

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One comment:

  1. Angry Beaver says:

    First, your classmate is wrong. Regardless of what she thinks Bowdoin “laws” provide, she is not “allowed” to drink alcohol. State law preempts the so-called “laws” of a private academic institution. Her logic is like saying: “My bank allows me commit fraud, so I cannot be held responsible by the government for illegal fraud.”

    Second, Bowdoin does not “assist” in the violation of a law by furnishing living space to students who then, in willful acts of their own volition, violate the law. That is like saying: “Bowdoin assisted in his cyber attack by providing accessible wifi,” or “Bowdoin assisted in an stabbing by providing silverware in the dining halls.”

    Third, what special protection should Bowdoin provide to someone who willfully violates the law? How is it fair to classmates, donors, or faculty that they should, in effect, pay for the legal fees generated by wantonly unlawful 18 year olds?


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