Drinking policy fair

I am writing in response to Brian Birsic’s condemnation of the Health Center’s new alcohol policy in the last issue of the Record. Birsic fails to recognize that alcoholism and irresponsible drinking are serious problems. He may be right that Williams students are not “naive kids,” but the fact that many end up at the Health Center as a result of excessive drinking indicates that some are not in control of their drinking habits.

The high drinking age and strict enforcement of drinking laws in the United States means that many American students do not grow up (as their European counterparts do) in a drinking environment. As a result, they may be genuinely uneducated as to how to enjoy alcohol safely. The ubiquitous high school lectures on “the dangers of alcohol” that Birsic mentions have clearly been ineffective for “repeat visitors” to the Health Center. The new policy, which requires students who end up there to return to discuss alcohol abuse, is an admirable effort to reach out to and help those students for whom these other methods of alcohol education have failed.

Birsic objects to the compulsory nature of the help the Health Center is offering, largely because “the student does not want to be reminded of and preached to about something that is obviously negative.” Be that as it may, the Health Center has wisely recognized that encouraging students to think about the causes of their own dangerous drinking habits is advantageous to all.

Certainly the new policy has a coercive flavor; however, it is not coercion that seems to bother Birsic. He advocates leaving alcohol policy in the “apt hands” of Security. Presumably, he means that Security ought to forcibly prevent all students from drinking excessively. This is clearly impossible given the size of the student body, not to mention utterly illogical. In light of Birsic’s concern for the safety of “repeat visitors,” would it not be better to persuade these students to make their own decision to drink responsibly? Those students that allow themselves to become dangerously intoxicated could clearly use some advice from the Health Center. For those students who do not wish to receive more alcohol education, a category into which I can only infer Birsic falls, the new policy leaves open an eminently viable option: to refrain from consuming dangerous quantities of alcohol. If you do not wish to be treated like a “naïve kid,” Birsic, do not act like one.

Ali Orme ’04

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