“Hearts full of youth, hearts full of truth, / Six parts gin to one part vermouth.”
3 April 2002 (collegiateway.org) — The legendary Tom Lehrer in his “Bright College Days” satirized college drinking just as he did everything else. (Including even “the dean who tried so hard to be ‘pals’ with us all.” Hmm.) But anyone who has spent time in campus dormitories knows that college drinking is often a very serious problem. It’s not simply a matter of the free choice of the drinker; it’s a matter of the resulting vandalism and violence, the destruction of property, and the violation of the rights of other students who come to college hoping to find a safe and secure place to live and learn. No college student should ever report, as an angry student in a generic campus dormitory once reported to me, that it was common in her building “to get up in the morning after receiving little to no sleep to find the hall vandalized and floor covered with beer, blood, glass, and other filth.” Is that unpleasant to think about? You bet. But sweeping conditions like that under the rug is far worse.
The Harvard School of Public Health has been conducting studies of college alcohol use for a number of years, and has recently released two new reports on the subject: “Trends in College Binge Drinking During a Period of Increased Prevention Efforts: 1993–2001” and “Underage College Students’ Drinking Behavior, Access to Alcohol, and the Influence of Deterrence Policies.” Everyone concerned with education and campus life should study these reports and consider how best to act on them. We owe it to our students (not to mention the taxpayers in many cases) to provide the best educational environments possible, and that means much more than good lecturing in the classroom. Strong campus communities—the kind provided by stable, well-run, faculty-led residential colleges—can contribute significantly to the reduction of destructive behaviors of all kinds on campus, including excessive drinking.