Students at Colby College have began their academic year in Waterville under a dry spell. Over the summer, Colby enacted a new policy—similar to those already in place at Bates and Bowdoin—banning hard alcohol.
A report issued by the Colby Campus Culture Working Group stated that the impetus for the new policy came after an incident at a graduation event in May 2008. According to the report, the event was marked by enough transports to the MaineGeneral [Medical Center] emergency room to qualify the facility as a disaster site, with "extensive damage to the Alfond Apartments, among other Colby facilities.
In the aftermath of the episode, and at the behest of the Board of Trustees, several working groups were formed to re-evaluate how Colby handles alcohol abuse among its student body.
The finalized ban on hard alcohol results from collaboration between the Campus Culture Working Group, members of Colby's senior administrative staff, and the Board of Trustees.
Colby's new policy is structured along the same lines as that of Bowdoin's. All students, irrespective of age, are prohibited from possessing or consuming hard alcohol.
Additionally, drinking games, broadly defined as activities that promote the dangerous and rapid intake of alcohol, are banned.
The annual "Champagne Steps" ritual, in which students gathered to drink at the close of a semester, has been banned.
It was during Champagne Steps that transports from Colby reached high levels at MaineGeneral Hospital last year.
In addition to the transports, a significant amount of Colby College property was damaged during the celebration, and the findings of the trustees reported that professors expressed discomfort with the nature of the festivities.
Colby's Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students James Terhune told the Echo that the new policy is designed to curb reckless and unsafe drinking.
"Every documented hospitalization we've had since we've been keeping track is related to hard alcohol," said Terhune, emphasizing the need to foster more responsible attitudes toward drinking in the Colby community.
Although Colby has banned hard alcohol, it defines such substances as anything with an alcohol content of 40 percent or higher.
Consequently, although punch spiked with liquor will not be served at parties, students will be able to obtain other mixed drinks more potent than beer and wine that do not qualify as hard alcohol under the policy.
Bowdoin and Colby have already had transports due to hard alcohol abuse this term, though both Bowdoin's Dean of Student Affairs Dean Foster and Terhune, in his interview with the Echo, felt that these incidents serve as poor barometers of the schools' policies.
Not all members of the Colby community are convinced the ban will reduce unsafe drinking habits.
Colby sophomore Daniel Hussey was skeptical about the effectiveness of the policy, noting, "There are still plenty of ways you can consume excess amounts of alcohol in a short period of time if so inclined."
Bowdoin's hard alcohol ban has been in place for the last 15 years, and Foster echoed Terhune when explaining Bowdoin's philosophy behind its policy.
"In my 15 years here, almost every time we've sent someone to the hospital, we've sent them because of hard alcohol poisoning," he said.
Foster acknowledged the argument that banning hard alcohol merely creates an even more dangerous underground drinking culture.
"I can almost guarantee you that if we allowed hard alcohol on campus as common source alcohol we would see many, many more people almost instantaneously going to the hospital for hard alcohol poisoning," he said.
Students reported mixed views on the effectiveness of the ban at Bowdoin in curbing irresponsible and dangerous alcohol consumption.
Residential Life staff member Nicole Roccaforte '11 allowed that while the prohibition is unlikely to ever totally stop hard alcohol use, "It makes a good percentage of people think twice."
Oronde Cruger '11 agreed, saying, "Even a couple of years ago I was on the opposite side, but having been on ResLife I think it works. It's easier to confiscate alcohol when you have a real reason to."
However, other students were unconvinced of the benefits.
"When you put a ban on hard alcohol it encourages people who drink anyway to drink in a more secretive manner," said Karoline Dubin '13. "But people who are underage would be drinking like that anyway because it's illegal."
"There's always a way you can get around it, banning it is just putting on a show," said Leticia St. Remy '12. "People should just take better care of their friends and not let them go too hard."