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ISSUE 120 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/13/2006

Rethink campus liquor

By Alyssa Kleven
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 13, 2006

St. Olaf College has talked it to death, "it" being our dry campus policy. The same questions come up constantly: Is it outdated? Does it best serve the purpose of the college, or, for that matter, the students?

The future of the policy remains a mystery. Many students are out to dissolve the policy altogether, while some would just like to see a few of the present restrictions relaxed. President Anderson, as he addressed in the Sept. 29 issue of the Messenger, said that even he doesn’t know what the future of our dry-campus policy will be. Future set aside, however, it’s time we admit the problems of the present that afflict St. Olaf students because of the policy.

Drinking under a dry campus policy, whether students are underage or not, promotes a binge drinking atmosphere. Drinking fast ensures a quick and heavy-hitting buzz and then gets the alcohol out of the way so that it may be hidden from the foreboding J.C. or R.A. on duty. Only then can Oles get going to where the real party is.

When the mindset is to drink fast and in high quantity, it’s easy to lose track of how much you’re drinking, which is very dangerous. Bring on the ambulances; we might as well start sticking our heads in the toilet now – this is where hiding booze gets us.

Mostly, the dry campus policy does not support personal responsibility. Seniors being asked to hide their drinking encourages drunk driving, among many other things. Taking a mid-winter walk to Froggy Bottoms late on a Thursday night usually doesn’t sound that appealing.

Neither does a drunk driver, but even Oles aren’t immune from making stupid mistakes. When forced to hide our inebriation to get back up the Hill, some Oles have and will continue to take this route. This problem could be solved with solutions like a campus safe-ride service into town, or a "booze bus" such as state schools have, but removing the ban on of-age drinking on campus is a way of telling seniors that the college holds them accountable, and that it trusts them to make the right decisions.

Carleton is an example of a well-functioning wet campus with a healthy atmosphere. The reason that Carls aren’t the biggest fans of Oles is our not-so-stellar reputation in their social drinking scene. Carleton’s island parties are a good example. The Carls’ student government hosts these spring soirees for seniors, providing kegs and telling the students that the party is for seniors and guests of seniors. These "guests" of seniors are then examples of social drinkers. They don’t get overly intoxicated, but they have a beer in their hand and have a chat while hanging out with other students. There are no time constraints forcing them to chug down their plastic cup of cheap beer, and they don’t have to hide it.

When Oles come onto the island, it’s a different story. We are known not just for drinking their beer but drinking too much of it. Oles are known for throwing a punch and starting a fight, throwing up off the island, or even worse, things such as the events of Arbstock five years ago: Oles showed up drunk, and continued drinking, while it was cold and wet, so that kids had to be taken to the hospital. The intoxication was so pernicious that Arbstock was cancelled, and St. Olaf and Carleton have had separate spring concerts ever since. This was not the fault of Carls, but rather due to the mistakes of ill-informed Oles.

At a liberal arts college we can’t expect to learn everything in the classroom. A large part of the learning to be experienced at St. Olaf has a great deal to do with our social atmosphere. I’m not asking for each pod to play host to a keg-erator (as cool as that might seem), but rather to allow seniors and juniors who are of age to casually and socially drink in their rooms.

By this example, those Oles who have not yet turned 21 can observe what social drinking situations are like in the real world, and the students of St. Olaf can take steps towards responsibility, accountability, and break the Hill "bubble" so that we are prepared for life after Olaf.

Copy Editor Alyssa Kleven is a senior from Albany, Ore. She majors in English and in media studies.

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