A Chance To Get It Right
By The Summer Editorial Board, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, July 13, 2012
On July 2, Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson announced proposals for a revised alcohol policy that will permit random walkthroughs of all campus common spaces by Safety and Security at any time, require Greek houses to hire licensed caterers to serve hard alcohol and apply stronger punishments to organizations for serving “punch” at parties. Given the well-known and widespread issues of binge drinking and hazing on campus, the administration’s attempt to take concrete action to address these problems is commendable. But with these proposals, the College has the opportunity to do something even more commendable — to be truly responsive to student input and to craft lasting, uniform and positive change.
When administrators instituted changes to the dining plan in fall 2011, they did so with minimal student input and did not adequately seek suggestions or criticism until after implementation, forcing a reactive approach to the issue rather than a proactive one. In the fall, students will be offered more options and flexibility in their dining plans, but only after a full academic year of dissatisfaction and tension. By announcing these new alcohol policy proposals before they are set in stone, Johnson and her fellow administrators can act with transparency and cooperation with campus organizations to truly protect student welfare.
On Thursday, Dean Johnson announced in a campus-wide email that all community members can learn about the proposed reforms in their entirety and provide feedback through the dean of the College’s website. Those interested will also have the opportunity to attend an open forum on July 31 to share their thoughts with administrators directly. While we applaud Johnson for providing multiple mediums through which students can make their voices heard, simply providing these avenues is not enough. The input provided cannot go ignored. If it does, the College will have missed the chance to get these essential reforms right the first time, and administrators will have to deal with an unpleasant fallout as students across campus express displeasure not only with the policies but with the lack of agency in their formulation. That battle will only result in harming the very thing that the proposals are intended to aid — student safety and well-being.
At this point in time, we still have more questions than answers about the policies. Who will pay for the licensed caterers? What exactly is a licensed caterer, and how will catering licenses be obtained? Can Safety and Security enter a Greek house at all hours? Do the officers have the right to enter all parts of Greek houses and College dormitories? Can they intrude on fraternities’ and sororities’ members-only meetings? The administration will need to take advantage of the time they have left before the policies are scheduled to go into effect next term. Johnson must finalize these details and include them in an open discussion of the policies and their implications. Some students have expressed concern that these policies may cause Greek houses to hold fewer registered and open events, leading to more “underground drinking,” making the Greek system more exclusive and deterring students from making Good Samaritan calls when necessary. If the administration does not work with the student body, such negative consequences are far more likely, and could be far more extreme.
Above all, we urge the administration to keep a balance between student safety and student freedom their top priority. Any new policies must be intended to benefit students and should not be implemented to counteract a negative public image.
It is clear that Johnson and the rest of the administration will need to be proactive in promoting campus dialogue about binge drinking, hazing and the potential for new policy measures to address these issues. We are looking forward to the campus-wide forum on July 31 for further discussion and urge all affected students as well as relevant members of the administration to take advantage of the feedback methods available to them.