Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

October 24, 2016   |   Ithaca, NY


Editorial: New alcohol policy stifles safe drinking behavior

It’s an inevitable truth: College students are going to drink. This reality is one colleges and universities should recognize with appropriate alcohol policies that ensure the health and well-being of students, even when drinking is involved.

The latest amendments to the Ithaca College alcohol policy prohibit students from having even empty alcohol bottles in their rooms, as well as alcohol-related paraphernalia, such as beer pong tables and beer funnels. These are attempts to stop students from drinking, and they suggest that students should not possess something simply because there is the possibility of abusing it.

Along this line of logic, many other objects would fall under the category of items associated with drinking, such as decks of cards and televisions, for which there are countless drinking games. Perhaps students should also be prohibited from possessing can openers in their rooms, or hard furniture, since alcoholic bottles can easily be opened on them.

The policy not only treats college students like children who need to be policed about what they can have in their room, but it is ambiguous about its prohibited items. With this unclear policy, it is questionable how prohibiting certain items in a dorm room will motivate students to practice safe drinking practices. What college students need is not more policing in their lives, but services that can readily provide help when it is needed.

A policy like this that targets alcohol paraphernalia does nothing to protect students against the dangers of drinking. This rule against having alcohol paraphernalia in a dorm room is misdirected in trying to promote safe drinking, and will neither motivate more students to be cautious about drinking nor deter them from drinking.

While the college is trying to curb unsafe drinking habits, the greatest impediment to educating students about safe drinking is the legal drinking age. If it were lowered from 21 to 18, it would encompass all college-aged students, and administrators could comfortably use the college experience to cultivate a culture of safe, responsible drinking. With the drinking age where it is, the college cannot truly claim to be doing anything substantive to educate students about drinking. It’s not beer pong tables in dorm rooms that lead to binge-drinking habits — it’s the legal drinking age and overbearing policies that influence students to drink excessively and secretly.