It can happen anywhere

<p>We’ve heard so much about (over) drinking at Williams, it only seems fair to report an interesting occurrence at Swarthmore. At the “famed” Mary Lyon Halloween party (as characterized by the Phoenix), which included an abundance of potables, paramedics were called to the scene to attend to an overly enthusiastic participant. It seems a friend of the over-indulger called 911, worried about potential alcohol poisoning. This student luckily made out all right. My son said many students were concerned the incident “might ruin things for everyone else,” suggesting College officials might clamp down on on-campus drinking. My reaction, which I explained to him calmly and deliberately, was the friend show remarkable intelligence, given the potential outcome. Clarity of thought, for college students (and occasionally their parents), is sometimes at a premium.</p>

<p>It can happen anywhere. More interesting will be the administration’s reaction. Stay tuned.</p>

<p>At Pomona, it would be a severe and highly punishable violation of the Honor Code NOT to call 911 if you were worried about a fellow student's potental alcohol poisoning. </p>

<p>(But note: one call to 911 at Swarthmore is really, really small potatoes compared to Williams, where they had 4 hospitalizations in the first 3 weeks!)</p>

<p>I'm actually waiting for "The Phoenix" article on Thursday. There are two different stories floating around campus. One, that the ambulance was called for alcohol poisoning. Two, that a speaker from the sound system toppled over and injured somebody. (of couse, it's possible that both stories are true and related!)</p>

<p>If you search the archives for alcohol related arrests at Swarthmore, the Mary Lyons Halloween Party figures prominently. Virtually the entire campus goes to the party -- it's a big event. Plus, the dorm is not on the campus proper, but about a half mile away from campus center in the middle of a residential neighborhood, so you not only have students drinking at a party, but students walking back to campus, some through the town.</p>

<p>The "ruin it for everybody" issue is related to town/gown relations. The Swarthmore Police Department and the College have a pragmatic relationship regarding underage drinking that requires some considerable discretion on the part of law enforcement officers. The basic approach is that the Swarthmore Police go out of their way "to not go looking for trouble". In other words, the only time they would ever enter a Swarthmore party would be when they have no choice -- such as a brawl or a 911 call. This kind of incident is the kind that tests that approach. </p>

<p>Note that the alchohol consultants at Williams suggested that Williams would be a lot better off with this kind of relaxed enforcement policies. Many people believe that iron-fist enforcement of drinking age laws on campus contributes to the problem because it makes "responsible" drinking in a public setting more difficult and encourages kids to pound shots to get "prepared" for a party where they will not be allowed to drink. This theory is based on the belief that you cannot stop college kids from drinking, so you would rather have them at a dance drinking beer with some trained party obversers keeping watch than forcing them to get "maximum buzz in minimum time" before leaving for the party.</p>

<p>If there were not a slew of arrests at the Mary Lyons party when the police arrived on scene, then the Swat community should probably give a round of applause to the Swarthmore Police Department. That kind of incident puts the police in an awkward position and severely tests their ability to "look the other way" while dealing with the specific emergency call.</p>

<p>Well, it is a comforting myth, one that liberal college presidents love, but it is a myth nonetheless. Every major study of college drinking (including a recent one, by the way, that included Swarthmore), and in every part of the country, has shown that strict enforcement of underage drinking rules result in less drinking, less binge drinking, and fewer emergency room visits:</p>

<p><a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>Now, whether the colleges want to do anything about it is another matter entirely. (At Pomona, they have been trying the "responsible drinking" in a public setting idea and have found in their most recent survey that the result is more (not fewer) students getting prepared for the party.)</p>

<p>This really isn't that surprising. Schools that enforce indoor bans on smoking (which is legal for 18-year-olds) have lower tobacco use rates. Duh! </p>

<p>The policies suggested by the consultants at Williams included a complete ban on junior advisors providing ANY alcohol to first-years (which is where most first-year students currently get it), with consequences if they can't abide by the rules. They also suggested an end to the college (actually the student government) providing alcohol at all-campus events, instituting a BYO policy. This would cut down (they believe) on the sheer volume of alcohol, and would make it possible to minimize enforcement at the parties themselves.</p>


<p>The link you provided does not address enforcement of the drinking age. Instead, it talks about a specific policy of registering events where alcohol will be served:</p>

<p>"The researchers reported a decrease in heavy drinking rates at colleges where the policy was strictly enforced. The policy limited alcohol on campuses to specific locations, required advanced registration of all events involving alcohol and created new penalties for violations."</p>

<p>Also, as I read the Williams consultants' ideas, the BYOB policy was specifically offered as a way of making alcohol available (in a controlled setting) without exposing the College to the massive liability risks associated with college funded alcohol.</p>

<p>Actually, just about everything they suggested matched the reality of Swarthmore's alcohol policy:</p>

<p>a) My daughter's RA told the freshmen on the floor that she could not (by rule) and would not (by choice) procure alcohol for them.</p>

<p>b) The college (and the local police) do not attempt to "ban" underage drinking on campus. </p>

<p>c) Parties that serve alcohol must be registered with trained student Party Advisors (paid by the College) on hand.</p>

<p>d) College or student activities funds cannot be used to purchase alcohol (although there are some receipt reimbursement shenanigans that probably circumvent this). The funding mechanism for alcohol at the weekly Pub Night DJ and other campus wide parties is a cover charge ranging from $2 to $5 per person. So for $2, you can go to a campus wide party with campus funding for the DJ for dancing, or live band, and drink beer in a public setting. From talking to my daughter, it seems fairly common that her group will go to a movie or whatever and then stop by the campus wide party for an hour or two afterwards.</p>

<p>e) Punishment is focused on irresponsible behavior rather than possessing or drinking alcohol. For example, you won't be punished for drinking. You will be punished for getting drunk and smashing windows on campus.</p>

<p>No falling speakers, just falling students; two, actually, according to the Phoenix.</p>

<p>As for the “ruin it for everybody” issue, it did not relate to the town/gown problem of years past, which the College seems to have under control, with their negotiated settlement with the town.</p>

<p>A bit off topic, I appreciate your “boosteism,” as I, too, would have gone to Swarthmore (if I had known about it!). Your discussion of the school on this board last year helped me sort out my conflicting feelings about the College. So much so I encouraged my son to apply early decision (which he did). I remain very positive about the school, especially when discussing it with other potential applicants and their parents. At times, though (and not to step on your toes), I get the sense you’re on the Swarthmore payroll. (If not, perhaps you should be.) And that’s ok when you’re preaching to the congregation. But for those on the fence, your recent efforts can appear transparent (see, e.g., the Williams thread(s) re: drinking).</p>

<p>I’m very happy for our children. They have found the perfect school – for them. No mean feat. But now more than half way through the first semester, I see some less than perfect aspects of the College. Nothing, however, that would cause my son (or me) to rethink his decision. I’m just being realistic. Regards.</p>

<p>Here are the links, one to the article and one to a student editorial on the events:</p>

<p><a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p><a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p>