Water pong banned, risks of overhydrating cited
By Ben Nunnery
Published on Monday, February 5, 2007
Community Director Kristin Deal has banned water pong in residence halls, arguing that the beer-pong substitute violates Office of Residential Life policies and poses a health danger.
In an e-mail sent to residents, Deal, the community director for the Choates and North Hall, cited three residential policies that water pong violates, including a policy prohibiting endangering behavior.
In the same e-mail, Deal also included a link to a CNN article titled, "Women drinks so much water she dies," which reported on a California women who died after participating in the "Hold Your Wee for a Wii" radio contest. Choates cluster residents interviewed said they thought the comparison to the woman in California was unfounded because students did not drink the water when playing.
When asked about the e-mail, Deal said she was looking out for her residents.
"My job is to look out for the health and safety of the residents," she said. "Whether students are drinking the water or not, it is a possible liability if someone was to become intoxicated in water."
Dr. Heinz Valtin, a retired professor from Dartmouth Medical School, agrees with Deal's concern about water intoxication.
"Students really need to know that water intoxication is dangerous," Valtin said. "When a large water intake is combined with some condition of excitement, it causes the kidneys to not be able to excrete the water and dilutes the blood."
In the e-mail, Deal wrote, "When playing beer pong you begin to feel the effects of the alcohol on your body, where as you might not be able to assess the effects of water intoxication the same way."
But Valtin stressed that the effects of water intoxication are anything but subtle.
"Water causes the body's cells to swell," he said. "This swelling is not tolerated well in the brain. The first sign of water intoxication is confusion and is often followed by seizures. Death is quite rare but whenever it occurs, it is very tragic."
Deal said the problem came to her attention not because anyone was injured, but through damage and clean-up reports.
"Basement lounges have been used for water pong," she said. "They are being left a huge mess with water on tables. These rooms are designated as study lounges, and students are not using them for their designated purpose."
Deal also said if the students continued to play and leave the lounge disorderly, it would create a financial burden on the cluster as a whole.
"I am not aware of how many students are involved, but I do not want to hold the mass of the cluster financially responsible for the actions of a few," she said.
Deal said that punishment for those caught playing will depend on the specific policy broken. Even if no mess is left behind, she will enforce the room furnishing policy, which states that large game tables are prohibited due to limited room space and potential disruption to other students.
Allie Miller '10, resident of Brown Hall, said that there are benefits to water pong.
"Water pong not only engages healthy competition, but also keeps the Dartmouth tradition alive in an alcohol-free manner," she said. "The damage is next to nothing. More water is brought in by snow-covered shoes than could be spilled during the games."