Campus action required on alcohol issues

A visitor to campus this past Saturday evening would have been amazed to see the amount of activity. There was a hip-hop concert (without the headliner, but that’s a side issue), swing dancing, a first-year party and of course the traditional row house parties. What a visitor would not have seen is the behavior that has led to an increase in the seriousness of alcohol-related visits to the health center.

A visitor would not have seen this behavior because it is not taking place in the traditional venues. With the failure of the “row house party,” determined people have been going elsewhere to do their drinking. There may or may not be a decrease in incidents of excessive drinking thanks to the new, stricter party policy — it’s too early to tell — but those incidents that do occur have been getting more serious.

This leaves us with an unhappy prospect. As the issue of alcohol related deaths begins to affect more and more campuses across the country, we cannot help but worry not if, but when, the Williams community will be faced with a similar tragedy.

This is not an editorial prompted by such a tragedy, or even by any specific events this past weekend that would suggest the inevitability of such a tragedy. Indeed, this was a relatively quiet homecoming weekend.

Still, observing the overcrowded row house parties and the interactions between students, peer monitors, student hosts and security officers does not leave us confident that the problem is in any way under control.

It comes down to an issue of responsibility. The party policy explicitly states that one of the responsibilities of the 21-year old host is “to monitor and control the service and consumption of alcohol and to prevent minors from consuming alcohol.” This is an enormous burden to place on a single student, and it seems unrealistic to think that one student, even with the cooperation of peer monitors and security officers, can do what the party policy requires of him.

Also, because the new policy involves a stricter enforcement of the 21-year-old drinking age, and because this enforcement results in students being removed from parties, some students have come to view security officers and sometimes the hosts themselves in a more adversarial way. This is unnecessary antagonism.

21-year-old hosts make themselves liable for the actions of others — actions they cannot control. This is undoubtedly an uncomfortable position to be in, and students need to act responsibly at parties to ensure that they aren’t putting their peer, the host, at unnecessary risk.

It is not just partygoers, however, who need to be more responsible. This past weekend there were several instances of students, who were supposed to be peer monitors, not even showing up at parties. Technically, Security could have shut these parties down because this is a violation of the party policy. The real question is not what Security should have done, but what kind of hosts put on a party where the people who are making sure things are under control do not even show up?

The problem of excessive underage drinking is a problem that the entire community needs to address, because if something goes wrong, we will all be affected. Students need to be more responsible, hosts need to be more responsible and Security needs to continue to work to keep everything running smoothly and safely. It’s time to start taking this issue seriously before it is too late.

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