Alcohol does not belong in the dorms

May 3, 2010 

Many incoming students anticipate the excessive exposure of alcohol as an integral part of the college experience. While some students may consider themselves experienced drinkers, many, if not most, first-year students may have had minimal experience with alcohol prior to entering college.

When immersed in a drinking culture in which choosing to abstain from drinking is the minority, students often feel the need to conform in order to relate to their peers.

The mass presence of alcohol in the residence halls is one of Penn State’s most pressing concerns. With about 43,000 students, 13,000 of whom live in university housing, this problem can no longer be ignored. Disregarding extenuating circumstances, first-year students at Penn State are required to live on campus.

The high activity of underage drinking in the residence halls is facilitated by the current, inconsistent alcohol policy. The vagueness of the present policy in conjunction with the allowance of alcohol in the residence halls for those of legal drinking age blurs the line for underage students of what behaviors and actions are “punishable” versus what may be overlooked.

With the current policy in place, not only are legal repercussions questionable, but the exposure to, accessibility and visibility of alcohol are increased. Due to the inaction of the current administration, alcohol presence in the residence halls has persisted, resulting in financial and physiological costs. In order to combat this unaddressed and exponential issue, the students of the Presidential Leadership Academy are proposing that a dry-dorm policy be implemented.

This policy would prohibit alcohol in any university-owned residential facility, with the exception of Nittany Apartments and White Course Crossing. This would be a blanket policy prohibiting the consumption and possession of alcohol by those of legal drinking age and those underage.

Colleges that establish alcohol-free housing create an environment in which alcohol possession and consumption are strictly prohibited. By restricting the area where heavy drinking occurs, the university will help to deter students from binge drinking. Since the early 1990s, substance-free housing has become increasingly popular at many different campuses nationwide, including at the University of Michigan, Dartmouth College and Vassar College.

A 2002 report in the Journal of American College Health found that students in substance-free housing were less likely to experience alcohol-related problems — missing sleep, being forced to care for a drunken friend or roommate or being physically or sexually assaulted. By providing students with a safe haven of sorts, their dormitory will give students the chance to live in a healthy environment that promotes a substance-free lifestyle.

In concurrence with the institution of dry dorms, the Academy students think an incentive program should be implemented. The goal of the program would be to provide positive reinforcement, whereby large groups of students, such as those living in residence halls, would be collectively rewarded for compliance with the new alcohol policy.

In addition to creating an age-appropriate residential environment, a dry-dorm policy would send a clear message to current and prospective Penn State students about the university’s stance on the culture of college drinking. Having recently been voted the No. 1 party school by the Princeton Review, it is important that the university takes visible and effective measures to combat this degrading representation of Penn State.

This is an outstanding academic and research institution and it should be regarded as such.

Ilana Bucholtz, of Doylestown, is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in Jewish studies. Sara Chroman, of Livingston, N.J., is a sophomore majoring in political science and community, environment and development. Readers can contact students in the Presidential Leadership Academy at hrcdpla@gmail.com.

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