Dartmouth College President Phil Hanlon announced a campus-wide ban of hard alcohol in a January 29 speech. The ban is set to take effect after March 30, when the school’s spring term begins.

As one of the few peer institutions in the country with a similar ban on hard alcohol, the announcement from Hanlon has particular relevance to the Bowdoin community. Bowdoin banned hard alcohol in 1996 when it was trying to create a safer campus drinking culture after years of alcohol-related incidents at its fraternities.

In recent years, Dartmouth has been wracked by controversies involving binge drinking. The decision is one part of a new social doctrine for Dartmouth that largely stems from a panel on campus life that Hanlon initiated nine months ago. 

Dartmouth now joins Bowdoin, Bates, Colby and several other colleges who have such a ban. The definition of hard alcohol can differ between schools, however. For example, Colby’s ban on hard alcohol only applies to drinks with over 40 percent alcohol by volume, while Dartmouth will define hard alcohol as any drink with over 15 percent alcohol by volume. 
Other colleges, including Swarthmore, Colgate and Stanford University, have instead banned hard alcohol in certain spaces and at certain events.

Over half of the student body at Dartmouth is involved in Greek life, and Hanlon has said that he does not plan to abolish fraternities and sororities. However, in an interview with The Dartmouth, he did say that the Greek system “must and will be held to much higher standards and a far greater level of accountability.” 

Reactions to the hard alcohol ban from Dartmouth students have been mixed. Many students do not appreciate the limitations that the ban will impose on the social scene. Other students have expressed doubt that the ban will actually be effective at cutting down on binge drinking and fostering safe and responsible drinking on campus. 

In an article in The New York Times, Dartmouth senior Jake Rascoff expressed his concerns that the ban could make drinking more dangerous on campus.

“It will increase the incidence of surreptitious binge drinking and increase the risk of binge drinking off campus, which will lead to drunk driving,” said Rascoff.

“Ultimately, I think many members of the Greek community were pleased with the thought and care that went into President Hanlon’s address,” wrote Dartmouth senior Chet Brown in an email to the Orient.

He added that the hard alcohol ban will be challenging to implement, but said, “We remain hopeful that a reduction in hard alcohol on campus will ultimately lead to fewer hospital transports and an overall decrease in harmful behaviors.”

In the same New York Times article that Rascoff was quoted in, Brown stressed that an alternative to the hard alcohol ban may well be the abolition of the Greek system at Dartmouth—a possibility which may make students more willing to adhere to the ban.

Not all Greek organizations at Dartmouth were willing to speak on the subject.

Although current Bowdoin students do not have first-hand experience of what it was like before the College’s ban on hard alcohol, students nonetheless have varying views on its effectiveness. 

Ellie Quenzer ’17 acknowledged that the consumption of hard alcohol is still prevalent at Bowdoin, but she did say that the ban does make a lot of people think twice about drinking hard alcohol, as opposed to beer or wine.

“I think that it does deter a lot of people,” said Quenzer.

Head proctor of Osher Hall Will Danforth ’16 said that the policy is not effective at preventing first years from drinking in residence halls. However, Danforth pointed out that the hard alcohol ban is “a piece of a bigger puzzle in terms of other stuff that [the Office of Residential Life] and Peer Health does with regards to helping people be more respectful about drinking in the dorms.”

Both Danforth and Eben Kopp ’17, a member of the Alcohol Team—a campus group that works to educate students about the harmful effects of alcohol—cited the College House system as something that limits dangerous drinking.

“I definitely think that the College Houses help limit dangerous drinking,” said Kopp.

Specifically, Kopp noted that, for first years, College Houses can act as safer alternatives to pregames that often feature the consumption of hard alcohol. Officially, College Houses only offer pre-registered beer or wine that is checked by the Office of Safety and Security.

Bowdoin does have significantly lower numbers of alcohol-related transports than other NESCAC schools. During the 2013-2014 academic year Bowdoin ranked lowest in the number of alcohol-related transports out of NESCAC schools with 15 incidents. The numbers ranged from 15 to 95. 

In an email to the Orient, Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster said that a variety of factors may contribute to Bowdoin’s consistently low transport numbers, including the individual responsibility of Bowdoin students and students’ willingness to step in and help their peers in potentially dangerous situations. 

With regards to the hard alcohol ban in particular, Foster noted that since hard alcohol is not used at registered events, mixed drinks like jungle juice do not feature prominently in the social scene. Foster speculated that these sorts of mystery mixed drinks can result in more transports at other schools because they can make it hard for students to know what or how much they are actually drinking.