Alcohol policy: Amnesty is overdue, but hard liquor ban is unreasonable


Last week, the University introduced its new alcohol policy, which modifies and clarifies the old policy. Houses now have a concrete definition — four or more students from the same student organization who live together — and parties now have a concrete definition — any gathering of 25 or more people in a house, with alcohol. Parties have to be registered with the University, there must be Sober Party Monitors and no open parties are allowed. Hard alcohol is no longer allowed at any “party”, but students of the appropriate age are free to drink beer and wine.

Perhaps most importantly, the University also an included an amnesty provision in the new policy. Essentially, this means that a student or group will face more lenient consequences when getting necessary help, like calling for HERO. They may be told to attend an education or counseling program, but they will not immediately be sent through the disciplinary process.

A comprehensive policy like this is necessarily controversial, and naturally, the Editorial Board approves of some aspects of the new policy and disagrees with others. We are especially wary of the University’s outright ban on hard alcohol. We believe that the administration is egregiously overstepping its authority, even though we recognize why it would make such a move. Liquor contributes to the great majority of dangerous drinking situations. It is no secret that getting dangerously drunk off of beer and/or wine takes effort. A student has to spend a relatively long time drinking a large volume of liquid. There is also more time to feel the effects of beer and wine as you’re drinking it.

Hard liquor is fast and easy to drink. The volumes of liquid are small, and you can drink it quickly enough to where you do not feel the effects of what you’ve had until it’s too late. Hard liquor can get students into trouble far more quickly than other kinds of drinks. That being said, we believe that the majority of students know how to drink responsibly.

Additionally, even though the University has the power to regulate our social activities to some extent, we are still adults capable of making our own decisions. We believe that it is a paternalistic notion to try and control the kind of alcohol that students are allowed to consume in their own free time. The hard alcohol itself is not the crux of the problem; it is the drinking culture behind it that causes some students to binge drink.

There is a good probability that hard-drinking students will just shift their hard alcohol consumption to pre-party events anyway. For these reasons, the Editorial Board believes that the administration’s ban on hard alcohol is ill advised and ultimately unenforceable.

However, we very much approve of the amnesty provision, which reflects the one recently added to the Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures. No student should have to decide between calling for help and avoiding the possibility of academic probation. Students need to feel comfortable utilizing the help that is available — otherwise, there is no point in having it at all. Objectively, punishing students for trying to ensure the health and well-being of a peer at risk of serious bodily harm is ridiculous. We believe that the new amnesty policy addresses this issue well – especially because it extends protection to social organizations if the report is timely and made in good faith. The amnesty policy will undoubtedly make our campus safer and we think its implementation is long overdue.

One response to “Alcohol policy: Amnesty is overdue, but hard liquor ban is unreasonable

  1. Just to fact-check a couple of the points made in this article:

    The Amnesty policy – as important as it is – has been stated (by members of administration) to only be given once (typically). Groups don’t get amnesty over and over. And it is only given when a group has fully complied with the rules in the Alcohol Policy. So, essentially, if a group serves hard alcohol (or any other violation of the policy) or if the party isn’t registered, they will likely go through a full disciplinary process. In addition, amnesty doesn’t cover any punishments or fines that come from law enforcement. This obviously can change from case to case.
    You contradicted your point when saying that most students know how to drink responsibly but then say that the problem is the drinking culture behind binge drinking. The fact of the matter is Hopkins has an EXTREMELY bad problem of binge drinking. You clearly did not check your facts. There have been committees going on for the past year collecting data on student drinking habits and they have found that a lot of students (attending these parties) do not know how to drink responsibly, especially with many of them being freshmen. Hopkins students get trashed and sent to the hospital way above normal.
    Also, the “pre-party” events (aka pre-gaming) are required to be registered too.

    Anyways, I don’t fully agree with everything in the alcohol policy (which by the way has always been there it just hasn’t been enforced this aggressively). I also agree that we as students should be free to drink whatever alcohol we want. And I do agree that there are limits to being able to enforce parts of it, but I want to make sure you get the facts correctly.


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