During a Wednesday night meeting to discuss the presence, prevalence, and perils of alcohol on campus, one consensus was clear: identifying the crux of the problem is as difficult as identifying any potential solutions. While the raw data suggest that students are treating alcohol differently this year than they have in years past, the arguments articulated by students and administrators define the wide spectrum of opinions concerning current alcohol policy: either it is too strict, too lenient, or is simply too removed from the realities of drinking culture at Bowdoin for it to apply.
So far this year, there have been 18 students transported to the hospital for alcohol-related emergencies. In comparison, the 2008-09 academic year had 17 transports in total. In both years, all cases involved hard alcohol.
While this increase in transports has alarmed administrators, it has also sparked the attention of students. On the one hand, Bowdoin sends fewer students to the hospital for alcohol-related incidents than any other school in the NESCAC. When Bowdoin students choose to drink, in the majority of instances—by our calculations, over 99 percent of the time—we do not find ourselves in an emergency room. However, the behavior of students that leads to needing medical attention at the end of the night is no longer unique. At the same time, our behavior relative to another school is largely irrelevant when it is the safety of our own students that is endangered.
Administrators concerned with how alcohol—particularly hard alcohol—is used, abused, and regulated on campus are asking the College community for candid responses. Do we think this is an issue? Are we concerned by the behavior of our peers? What about our own behavior? Do we need to change the campus culture surrounding drinking, and are we willing to change our own habits?
Right now, we are not interested in the administration's willingness or refusal to consider permitting hard alcohol for students of age, or any other policy debates that may come in future weeks. Right now, we are interested in tonight, tomorrow night, or the next night, and whether we, as students, can prove that we are aware of our limits.
We'd like to present a challenge to ourselves and our fellow students: Can we try to be responsible this weekend? Can we try to avoid the shot-ripping, frantic pre-gaming culture that has been instituted on campus and learned by each incoming class? Can we remain conscious enough of our drinking habits this weekend to think about what really makes for a fun night out? Rather than focus on a long-term change in culture, let's take things one weekend at a time.
If we make it through the weekend without sending anyone to the hospital, that's one success.
If we make it through, consciously adopting a little more responsibility and willingness to reflect, and find that the weekend was no less fun than any other, then maybe we haven't lost our way.
However, if we, as a campus, can't even make it through this editorial without resisting the idea of a weekend without rapid-fire pre-games and excessive drinking, then maybe there is a problem.