Collegiate Alcohol Policies Come in as Many Flavors as Rubinoff

During my short time here at Boston College, I’ve heard many complaints that I’m sure most students are familiar with, and may even be guilty of voicing themselves—complaints about RAs, BCPD, and the hosts of parties being too anxious or kicking people out once the midnight rounds roll around. But we have to ask ourselves, is BC’s alcohol policy and enforcement of that policy all that unreasonable?

Boston College faces a problem virtually all colleges and universities in the U.S. have faced for at least since the  national drinking age was set at 21 in 1984, but presumably longer. It seems that BC is treating drinking on campus in a fairly standard way, compared to the ways a few of our peer universities address alcohol use on campus.

Loyola University, Maryland (MD)

As another Jesuit institution, Loyola Maryland’s policies surrounding alcohol are fairly similar to those at BC. The university’s website states that alcohol is permitted only in dorm rooms where all residents and visitors are 21 or older and that students found violating this policy are susceptible to penalties, although it is not clear on what these penalties might include. Emily, a freshman, said that the most common penalty is a fine, a policy which is stated by many schools, Jesuit or secular, private or public, across the country.

Like at BC, drinking in dorms still happens, but Emily says it is most common in the apartment-style upperclassman dorms and that parties occurring in dorms are almost always pre-games. The majority of students spend their nights off campus, at other schools in the Baltimore area such as Johns Hopkins or at bars.

Pensacola Christian College (FL)

For readers who have never heard of this Christian college, Pensacola is a liberal arts institution located in Northwestern Florida that has about five thousand undergrads. This university’s policy on prohibited activities is as follows: use or possession of alcohol by any student, anywhere on campus, is strictly forbidden, and students in conflict with this rule may be subjected to suspension or expulsion, period.

Chris, a current freshman, and Ben, graduate of the class of 2011, say that this policy is effective at discouraging alcohol possession on campus but not at discouraging drinking. “People who want to drink will drink," says Ben. "The off-campus scene is huge.” Both students also hold the belief that the dry campus has a polarizing effect: students who wanted to party were a minority who were sometimes isolated from rest of the campus community. Chris notes, however, that every student was subjecting him or herself to the consequences of living on a dry campus and that it was their choice to go against the policies many students found favorable.

UMass Amherst (MA)

UMass Amherst, the infamous party school, has a very similar alcohol policy to BC’s. Along with not allowing the possession or consumption of alcohol by students under 21, drinking games, possessing large amounts of alcohol (such as kegs and punch bowls) and hosting a “party” of ten or more people are prohibited. Most students, however, agree that this policy is very loosely enforced. Elisa, a freshman, says that every frat party has “beer pong, flip cup and kegs.” Brendan, a current sophomore, agrees and says that RAs are unlikely to enforce the policies, noting that though they have upped the ante slightly in the past year, it is still not enough to get in the way of a “good time.”

Washington University, St. Louis (MO)

Washington University’s official alcohol policy is similar to most others in that students under 21 are not permitted to have alcohol. However RA’s follow an unwritten rule, according to WashU sophomore Nick, in which “if you're drinking responsibly and not in a destructive, repetitive or flagrant manner, and your door is open to show that you're doing just that, then they won't give you a hard time about it.” He says that, although this is a widely understood “policy,” he rarely sees students drinking with their doors open, but generally, he has not witnessed “destructive drinking by anyone in a dorm setting.”

It is also noteworthy that the web page stating the university’s policy is mainly devoted to stating the health risks associated with abuse of alcohol and drugs with very little to no information on the risks that come along with violating policies, whereas most other schools’ websites solely detail policy and possible punishments,

Northeastern University (MA)

Northeastern’s policies are pretty typical: no alcohol or alcohol paraphernalia in the dorms of students who are underage and no excessive amounts of alcohol, such as kegs, are allowed anywhere on campus. The policy that students speak highly of (also present at BC) is a medical amnesty policy in which any student can seek medical attention for having consumed too much alcohol with no questions asked and no disciplinary actions taken against the student or anyone involved in making the call. Kat, a sophomore and member of the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, says students are big fans of this policy, and it encourages responsibility, because if a student is seen as highly intoxicated and has not contacted the medical amnesty group for help, they can be subjected to disciplines such as fines.

Kat also finds the rules surrounding sorority and fraternity events to be pretty fair and well-liked among students. Some of these rules include clearing events and parties with administration, having a certain percentage of the hosting sorority (or frat) staying sober  and having guests over 21 wear wristbands to show they are able to drink. Overall, Northeastern’s policies are more centered around safety and appropriate drinking than the “out to get you” policies that typically frustrate students.

So how does BC compare?

Boston College’s policy surrounding alcohol is as follows:

Students under the age of 21 years are prohibited from possessing, using, purchasing, transporting, selling, and/or distributing alcohol.

Regardless of legal drinking age, all students are prohibited from:

  • Possessing or consuming an open container of alcohol in on- or off-campus public or common areas (e.g., Campus Green, outdoors, lounges, hallways, etc.).
  • Engaging in drunkenness and disorderly conduct.
  • Possessing, furnishing, consuming or serving from a large quantity or common source of alcohol (i.e. kegs, beer balls, punch bowls).
  • Hosting or participating in the rapid consumption of alcohol, including high-risk drinking games.

Enabling underage alcohol consumption. A student will be considered to be enabling the underage consumption of alcohol if he/she possesses or has alcohol present in their residence for use by others, regardless of who purchased or acquired the alcohol. The student is also responsible for misconduct if he/she passively allows illegal alcohol or drug use to occur within his/her residence hall room or off campus residence, or otherwise provides a setting that allows for the underage consumption of alcohol.

Our policy is in line with the majority of other universities in the U.S., and seems to be especially in line with other Jesuit institutions and Massachusetts schools. There are also a few rules outside the stated policy that can work towards our advantage here at BC. For example, like at Northeastern, students will not be punished for calling for medical assistance for themselves or others, although any stupid drunk mistakes one makes at BC are still punishable. Mod parties are also typically registered, and are required to have a certain alcohol-to-food ratio.

Whether a dry campus, an open door policy or a policy that falls somewhere in between such as BC’s, which is most favorable is up for debate. The middle of the road, vanilla approach to addressing underage alcohol consumption and alcohol abuse seems to be the go-to approach at BC and most of its peer institutions.

 

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