Drinking On Campus

Lately in the news, I've been reading about this new trend at colleges and universities.  Administrations are cracking down on fraternities for drinking.  In four colleges, all alcohol has been banned at fraternities, even for students over 21 years of age.  Now, the link between fraternities and partying has been etched deep in everyone's mind since Animal House.  But do fraternities lead to more drinking for students than normal?

Back at Carnegie Mellon, I was in Kappa Sigma Fraternity.  To be sure, we had a constant supply of beer at the in-house bar, which held up to four running air taps, and the refrigeration unit could hold up to ten kegs, keeping those lovely suds cold.  So in one respect, just the ready supply of alcohol would mean that if I wanted a beer, I could get one.  I think this is the only respect in which fraternities lead to more drinking.  It does not mean that we did drink all the time and abused it.

The issue I have, though, is responsibility.  Fraternities have always held a negative stigma for the outside world.  To counter this, in the early 90's, administrations across the country began a "no kegs" policy, pressuring the nationals that charter fraternities to force the change through insurance pressures.

I completely disagree with this idea that "oh, we get rid of kegs, we'll lessen the problem."  I'll get to the basis that alcohol for minors is illegal later.  What happens when you get rid of kegs?  Well, the students turn to cans and bottles.  But, low and behold! That's expensive compared to kegs!  Wouldn't it be cheaper (remember being the starving college student) to buy hard alcohol?  Of course!  So let's get a whole bunch of hard alcohol and get fucked up that way.

So, the administration decides to eliminate alcohol all together.

Let's step back a second and look at this.  Remember back to high school when drinking was cool - mainly because it was illegal.  That little thing about "bucking the system."  That's the child's mentality.  When I got to college, yes, of course I went crazy with all the free alcohol for a short time.  But when it's no longer a "big deal", you think about what you are doing.  You begin to think about responsibility.  Fraternities that I have been involved with have all looked at responsible drinking as important.  Not only for the health of their members, but for the fraternity as a whole.

With kegs, fraternities are best able to regulate who is drinking, what they are drinking, and how much they are drinking.  Now, you get rid of something that can be regulated by responsible adults (they can vote, can't they?) and it becomes a bit harder.  Then you eliminate alcohol all together.  What do you think the students will do?  The ones who have learned responsibility will probably stay somewhat responsible, but get fake ID's and go out to a bar.  The new students, however, who are still in the high school mode will come to college and continue their immature antics.

Case in point;

CMU Kappa Sigma has not had an alcohol related health problem for as long as I attended, and as far as I know, in its 75 years of charter.  I began a sober patrol of 6 members that would police the party and not be allowed to drink.  Anyone with a problem, they could help.  Anyone they thought should be cut off was.  They tended bar, ran the door, and roamed the party just like security does at a real bar.

In 1991, CMU tried to force the fraternities to eliminate kegs.  Kappa Sigma National stood behind it's chapter stating that if CMU mandated what Kappa Sigma could do, the fraternity would move the chapter off campus and still recognize it, regardless of what CMU said.

In 1993, Kappa Sigma National, under pressure from the school and its insurance carrier (that was pressured by universities and colleges) caved in to the elimination of kegs.  Cans were allowed, as long as the party was "closed door" and private (invitation-only).  In 1994-5, CMU stated it would be eliminating alcohol on campus, period.  In 1995, a pledge had to be treated for alcohol poisoning because he drank a bottle of hard alcohol on his own.

Of course, you first reaction - "See, that's why alcohol should be eliminated."  But, don't you get it?  Did you take any behavior science courses?  Do you have the slightest amount of common sense?  Why did this happen?  Because the school had eliminated alcohol, moving it from a semi-open, policed, regulated activity to a "Let's go to the golf course and get a buzz!  That'll be cool - heh heh."

Hell, responsible adults from all walks of life participated in making Al Capone the richest gangster the world had known because they bought his alcohol illegally.  What makes administrators and "more mature, smarter, more knowledgeable" adults think that do the same thing as Prohibition will work?

Why do people think there are so many drunk highschoolers?  Uh, could it be they never learned responsibility and binge drink because they think they are getting away with something - because it's against the law, it's cool?  Duh, now let's just transfer that mentality to college students.  Make it 4 more years of high school.  Maybe they'll learn responsible drinking by the time they're alcoholics at 30 years old, still sneaking that flask in their jacket.  Treat people like children, they will act like it.  Begin to treat them like they are responsible, and set up guidelines, and just maybe they'll come along. Yeah, yeah, it's against the law.  So's speeding over 1 mile the speed limit and jaywalking.  Maybe if we tried to raise responsibility and consciousness instead of imposing laws, we would be better off.  You cannot change behavior by changing a law.  Changing behavior takes calculated steps and education. (Yes, I am saying that it should not be illegal to drink fro any age).

All that moving the drinking age from 18 to 21 has done is make drinkers less responsible when they finally do become legal age because they've had 3 more years to practice getting around the system.

Look at smoking.  For 20 years, smoking has decreased.  Then they pass a law making it illegal for anyone under 16.  Suddenly, smoking among teens is way up.  Casual or Causal relationship?

As a last point - what's the Constitutionality of telling someone, who is of legal age to drink, that they cannot in their own residence?  And, of course, isn't this discrimination against people who belong to a Greek society?  Is anyone reading this a lawyer who wants to take up the cause pro bono?  I think we have something here!


---> Page Last Modified on October 27, 1997<---