Everyone and their grandmother seems to have an opinion on how to fix the alcohol problem at Bowdoin. In light of the recent spate of intoxicated underclassmen being sent to the hospital and the $12,000 grant the Brunswick Police Department received to combat underage drinking, Bowdoin's alcohol policy has been the "buzz of the bubble." The fact of the matter is that no policy can be perfect in an environment where most students drink, but only about half of them are legally allowed to do so. To suggest the administration of this school has not painstakingly analyzed its own policy is ridiculous. A premiere college like ours does not take the problem of underage drinking (or, alternatively, the problem of the 21-year-old drinking age in this country) lightly.

The alcohol "problem" at Bowdoin is not one of its own making; it reflects the difficulty that colleges across the country are facing. Bowdoin is trying to strike a compromise between the law and the reality that college students, regardless of their age, drink alcohol. The College House System is quite effective at doing that: instead of pushing underage drinking off campus, College House parties can be supervised and controlled. While I, at 22, may disagree with the hard alcohol ban on campus, I understand the reasons for it.

There are plenty of factors that have contributed to the rise of hospital transports this year, but it ultimately reflects the drinking culture at this school. No alcohol policy can be flawless in this environment, so students instead need to take more individual responsibility. We need to watch out for our friends and, more importantly, ourselves.

Yet, Residential Life has pulled a fast one on us regarding their requirement for alcohol hosts at college house parties. The next time you pick up an alcohol host form, you might want to read the fine print before signing your name. Bowdoin's adored College House System quietly passes on the College's legal liability to the alcohol host. Though the school owns the property and is complicit in the party's existence, the alcohol host holds legal liability for anything alcohol-related that goes wrong at a college house party.

According to the College's alcohol policy, "Hosts are responsible and liable for the conduct of their guests at parties...and under certain circumstances, may face criminal or civil proceedings under jurisdiction of Maine State Law." Unfortunately, you won't find that line anywhere on the green alcohol host sheet.

The alcohol host system allows the school to avoid the potentially messy legal liability of weekly College House parties where hundreds of students are drinking illegally. Let's say that the parents of an underage student who was served beer at a College House party and was later injured wanted to file a civil case—the alcohol host is liable. I don't personally know of this ever occurring, but given the increase in hospital transfers and police funding, it is at least conceivable.

Now, I am not saying Bowdoin should scrap the alcohol host system. What I am saying is that Bowdoin has a duty to explicitly inform us of this liability swap. Having been "trained" to be an alcohol host twice in the last two years, and having gone through College House orientation two years ago, I can confidently say I was not clearly informed by anyone of this practice. I don't fault ResLife for this; their training regarding all the other aspects of alcohol hosting was spot on. But if I am going to assume legal liability for hosting a party, the College should be far more upfront about it. You shouldn't need to be a legal expert to understand that risk.

As a fellow student, I urge all of you considering alcohol hosting a College House party to just be cautious. Ask questions when you are trained. Know where you stand, and where the school stands. It might seem like an unlikely scenario to be prosecuted or even sued for allowing underage drinking, or having underage drinking occur under your watch. But you could carry a charge of that kind for the rest of your life.

Chris Rowe is a member of the Class of 2010.