Will DePauw’s New Alcohol Rules be Effective?

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The “drinking culture” on DePauw’s campus is one of both worry and intrigue, for it has caused more concern for the safety of DePauw students. But it has also pushed DePauw to react in attempts of curbing this “drinking culture.” The amount of hospitalizations due to alcohol related incidents has skyrocketed to 13 students since the 2017-2018 school year has started and in response to this, DePauw is cracking down — hard. Effective immediately, there will be harsh consequences for students under the drinking age that are caught with hard liquor. Is DePauw being too harsh here? Or is cracking down on DePauw students completely justified?

On September 15, Vice President of Student Life Alan Hill sent out an email out to all students, explaining the new rules put in place to combat the underage drinking of hard alcohol on campus. According to Hill’s email, there has been an improvement among college students nationally with a decline in binge drinking. However, DePauw’s campus does not reflect that decline. In fact, per Hill, students on DePauw’s campus have had higher blood alcohol content levels (BAC’s) and more students have been transported to the hospital than the fall 2016 school year.

Why there is an influx of students consuming hard alcohol is unclear, but it is  clear is that hard alcohol is extremely available at DePauw, and students are taking advantage of this. DePauw initially tried to combat hard alcohol issues by making the decision to bring beer kegs back  to campus this past summer in hopes of limiting the number of drinks that students can consume. Now, some new rules are being put into place. According to Alan Hill, students under the age of 21 in possession of hard alcohol will get a fine of $250 from DePauw’s community standards, and students consuming hard alcohol will get higher level sanctions and longer probations.

Will DePauw’s new and improved policies to combat the use of hard alcohol be effective? And if  the new policies are effective, are they too intense? What would happen if a student got caught with a small amount of hard alcohol? Or even consumed a small amount of hard alcohol? What if the student was a first-time offender? Would they experience a punishment with the same severity as a student who possessed or consumed a normal or large amount of alcohol? There are even some students who might not be able to pay the $250 fine because they are not in a financial position to do so. There should be more specifications in the new hard alcohol policy to accommodate these possibilities.

Students are expected to follow the rules of their institution, but there are often grey areas to these rules that can be interpreted many different ways. If a student was caught in possession or consuming hard alcohol and suffered the full extent of DePauw’s new policies, that might damage the relationship between students and the administration. There is an unspoken, but established trust between students and their institution, where students know to some extent the rules and what the consequences are if those rules are broken. The new rules that DePauw has put into place alter this unspoken trust in a way where students cannot be sure of the consequences depending on the severity of their actions.

On the other hand, underage drinking is illegal. There is no way around that. If students choose to drink while underage and are caught, they should be held accountable for their actions. DePauw’s new rules just make the consequences more severe for students in an effort to keep them safe. In addition to students’ success being one of DePauw’s many priorities, the welfare of students is of the utmost importance as well. In order to insure the security of DePauw’s students, another provision of the new hard alcohol policies will be additional rounds conducted by Public Safety and Student Academic Life Staff. Students might not see the additional rounds as a benefit to them. Getting a citation from Public Safety and being processed through the Putnam County court system would seem as anything but a safety precaution to a student caught with alcohol. But the DePauw administration is taking whatever measures they need to address the excessive drinking on campus. With that said, the line where students are fully punished should be clearly defined, in order to maintain a healthy relationship between the administration and students.

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Byron Mason II is a sophomore at DePauw University as a English Writing major. As both a Media Fellow and an editor at DePauw's Midwestern Review, Byron contributes to the DePauw community by producing and monitoring the compelling content that DePauw has to offer.