Margaret Eby
January 30, 2015 1:37 pm

Dartmouth College has pulled out all the stops and taken a hard stance against repeated student misconduct. On Thursday, the college announced a series of sweeping reforms, including forbidding pledging at fraternities and sororities (not membership, just pledging), as well as requiring all students to undergo a four-year long sexual violence prevention program. And, oh yeah: Dartmouth College has totally banned hard liquor.

That’s right: As of the beginning of the spring term, on March 30, all beverages that are over 15% alcohol can no longer be on campus, whether you’re 21 or not.

Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon announced the changes in a speech to the community, in which he touched upon making improvements in a student culture marked by binge drinking, sexual assault, and other misconduct. Greek organizations, Hanlon said, “must and will be held to much higher standards and a far greater level of accountability. Organizations that choose not to fulfill these higher standards will not be a part of our community. And if the Greek system as a whole does not engage in meaningful, lasting reform, we will revisit its continuation on our campus.”

No minced words there. Dartmouth should absolutely be praised for taking seriously the ongoing sexual violence problem on campuses, the epidemic that includes a former Stanford swimmer accused this week of raping an intoxicated, unconscious woman. But is eliminating hard alcohol really going to help ensure students’ safety? Or will it simply push the college culture of drinking further underground?

That’s what Dartmouth senior Jake Rascoff predicted to the New York Times: “It will increase the incidence of surreptitious binge drinking and increase the risk of binge drinking off campus, which will lead to drunk driving,” he said.

And, further, would making hard liquor taboo actually make sexual assault more difficult to report? It’s already hard enough to come forward about an incident of sexual violence without worrying that you’ve further broken college rules by participating in illicit alcohol consumption.

It’s unclear exactly how well the hard liquor ban will work or how it’ll be enforced. But it’s good that campuses across the country are getting serious about the safety of their female students. We will see if other schools follow Dartmouth’s lead, and truly what kind of effect the hard alcohol prohibition has on campus life.

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