Dry campus a wet blanket

By Editorial Board

Columbia proudly touts itself as a “dry campus”—drinking, possessing or distributing alcohol is strictly prohibited on campus and at college-sponsored events held off campus, unless the college’s administration approves otherwise. While the college’s dry campus policy means well, it is a laughable and barely enforceable policy at best.

The Chronicle in no way condones underage drinking or providing alcohol to minors—there is no arguing the legality of these actions. However, forcing a policy on the entire student body, particularly when much of that student body is well above the legal drinking age, is unfair and illogical. The college’s administration should reconsider the effectiveness of a dry campus policy and do more to discourage underage drinking rather than continue to ineffectively enforce a policy that does little to deter on-campus drinking.

The college’s campus is in the heart of a city with dorms sitting on top of or adjacent to corner stores, bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. Underage drinking and providing alcohol to minors is illegal, but prohibiting of-age students from imbibing in on-campus housing is ridiculous given the geographic location of the college, the social aspects of drinking and the financial circumstances of many students.

Although Columbia students who can legally drink can make the decision to leave their dorm and go elsewhere, the dry campus policy simply becomes a flimsy nuisance for those who live on campus to circumvent and drink—as adults do—in the safety and comfort of their own home.

For many Columbia students, on-campus living is the most financially responsible decision to make, as opposed to getting their own place. That said, the dry campus policy is still enforced on Columbia students who are of the legal drinking age. Knowing there are no severe punishments for legally drinking in their own dorm, students may make more informed, thoughtful decisions when it comes to alcohol consumption. Of course, as adults, college students should already be making safe decisions when it comes to partying and drinking, but most know this is not the case.

Drinking is one of the most controversial but universal aspects of the college social scene. At parties and mixers, students gather around fifths and kegs like moths to a flame, and although drinking is not always the safest or healthiest choice, it is a very large part of the adult world. The benefits to having alcohol in a social situation have been well documented in many studies. However, the downsides of it are discussed and researched far more often, as many students develop unhealthy habits during their college years.

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than 80 percent of college students drink, and more than half of those drinkers participate in binge drinking—a dangerous activity that can lead to death, injury and instances of assault and sexual abuse. 

Binge drinking is all too common for college students. However, labeling a campus dry simply creates a weak facade that does nothing to deter this activity or its repercussions. It only serves to absolve the administration of all legal responsibility if something serious should actually occur. By lifting the “dry” label while more strictly punishing underage drinking on campus and addressing alcohol abuse in a more tactful way, the college can do more for the safety of its students rather than pretending an umbrella term will magically rid the college of underage and binge drinking problems.

According to Columbia’s 2013–2014 Annual Crime Statistics & Fire Safety Report—even with an alcohol ban—the college reported 1,239 liquor law violations between 2011–2013.

Whether on- or off-campus, students will find a way to drink, regardless of Columbia’s policy, but if the college’s administration truly wants to take a vested interest in not only the safety and well-being of its students, but also in their social lives, revising the college’s dry campus policy is the first step.