Rethinking the Log’s new drinking policies

It’s easy to understand why the town and the College would want to limit underage drinking at the Log, especially in the wake of the disrespect shown by students to the College staff and the unfortunate incident of sexual harassment at the recent “Kamon-I-wan-a-leia” party.

Still, it’s difficult for me to see how the new regulations implemented this week will have any effect aside from ruining the Log as a usable social space and increasing the incidence of antisocial binge drinking on campus. Most of the students involved in the incident at the Log had not been drinking there, and the party was not well planned, lacking proper staffing from Security and dining services.

The new policies will probably undermine what’s left of the Log’s function as a venue for social events. Students won’t want to go to a bar where they have to remember to bring two kinds of ID showing their age, and where they will only be able to drink three drinks, and that while holed up in the back room. This stringently regulated atmosphere will almost certainly upset the fickle balance of ingredients needed to make a space attractive to students.

In the past, the Log achieved such a balance because it allowed older students to drink and interact with younger students in the same space; now most older students will probably think that Log isn’t worth their time and just go the Purple Pub across the street.

It is difficult to determine how much the administration had to do with these decisions and to what extent they were imposed by the town. On the surface, at least, the Log’s new regulations seem inconsistent with the administration’s renewed interest in improving student life. Most of the wonderful improvements proposed this year – a new Baxter, anchor houses, Community Life Coordinators – will start benefiting students at about the same time we start receiving pre-paid envelopes from the Alumni Office. What about students who are here right now? The College had a chance preserve residential life with the Log, and instead they crushed the viability of one of the best social spaces on campus. Until the fabled new Baxter is completed, there won’t be many things on campus that facilitate social interaction, aside from the occasional row house parties and the sports teams, which only segment the campus into small cliques.

It is important that the College’s and the Selectmen’s policies promote social drinking among 21-year old students. The danger to students’ safety is not drinking itself, but closeted drinking in dorms that are difficult to patrol. Students go to the hospital for alcohol poisoning not because they had five or six beers at the Log, but because they discreetly took shots of vodka in the dorms. Hard alcohol is preferred for “pre-gaming” before parties where alcohol won’t be served or will be highly restricted, as it is easier to conceal and has a more rapid effect. Hard alcohol is almost always involved in the health center calls and hospital visits I hear about. The new policies will increase dangerous, closeted drinking rather than encourage safer drinking in public places where security and police can keep an eye on students’ safety. I fail to understand why the goal of the town’s policy is so often only to stamp out underage drinking, rather than to protect the health of students who will probably gain access to alcohol on their own.

If the Town and the College want to protect the health and safety of students, they should keep drinking in the open where it can be regulated and controlled. When given a choice such as the one before them this week, the Town’s and the College’s interests should not be in preventing a handful underage students from having a few sips of a senior’s beer at the Log, but in preventing our students from dying of alcohol poisoning in an empty common room.

The horrible image of a student alone in some dorm basement, suffocating on his own vomit, is what I’m told haunts our administrators every weekend, and what I’m sure haunts the minds of the Selectmen as well. The Town and the College should work together to promote on-campus social drinking that can be regulated and monitored.

As shocking as the events of the “Kamon-I-wan-a-leia party” were, they were surely not as horrible as even the possibility of a student death.