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ISSUE 119 VOL 2 PUBLISHED 9/23/2005

Rethinking drinking

By Executive Editors
Executive Editor

Friday, September 23, 2005

This past weekend, three senior Ytterboe pods were cited for alcohol violations, twice. The weekend before, two honor houses were cited for the same, as well as a large group of sophomores, twice. What is happening to our lovely, PG-13 dry-campus?

Although St. Olaf has a reputation for its straight-laced student body, it just isn’t so behind closed doors. The current alcohol policy seems to be ineffective – or is just plain being ignored – and may prove to be archaic in the future, based upon our government’s current debate about lowering the legal drinking age from 21 to 18. St. Olaf maintains its alcohol policy for the benefit of the students, but what does it mean when there are mass infractions of that policy by students? It is time for the policy to be re-evaluated.

The Wellness Center website states: “St. Olaf is officially a dry campus, but drinking does occur, and the college is more concerned that students lead healthy lifestyles than that policy be enforced. St. Olaf has historically had relatively low rates of alcohol and drug use on campus. This is not to imply that the college is exempt from these problems, but students can find friends and things to do that do not involve drinking.”

Director of Residence Life Pamela McDowell argues that the dry-campus policy exists to allow students who choose not to drink to do other things without the influence of alcohol, mainly because two-thirds of the campus has expressed the desire to keep alcohol out of their lives.

“Students have expectations about what they can do with their time,” McDowell said. “People should be able to do what they want without being inconvenienced by those around them. When people have parties and lose their inhibitions, it impedes negatively on the academic performances of people who don’t want to do that – negatively for other people who chose not to be at a party all night.”

McDowell does not advocate changing policy, but she argues that if we start thinking about that option, then we should talk to students about how safe they would feel on a wet campus.

In the Oct. 13, 2000 issue of the Manitou Messenger, an article was published concerning the discovery of alcoholic beverage bottles in former President Edwards’ recycling bins. Apparently, the men’s cross-country team ran by the president’s house early in the morning and discovered bottles of “Chardonnay, Amador, Sauvignon Blanc, [and] unlabeled mason jars.”

The article draws attention to the school’s policy concerning the matter which states: “The possession, distribution or consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited on the St. Olaf campus, on land owned by the college, and in college-owned honor and language houses. The consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited at all college-sponsored functions, no matter where located.” It isn’t just Ytterboe residents who don’t follow the rules.

The article, however, does realize that “as a resident of Minnesota of legal drinking age, the President has every right to enjoy a bottle of wine with guests after dinner.”

Of course he does, because he is, after all, a grown-up. So are nearly 1,000 students on campus who are of-age.

In lieu of recent events, which may not necessarily be an anomaly, we feel it is time to re-examine the reasoning for maintaining our dry campus policy. Implementing a policy that students do not respect and has little or no effect is pointless and bad for the College’s image. The administration has a choice: It can turn a blind eye to the fact that students will drink on campus, or it can find a way to encourage responsible drinking.

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