A dry campus, or a dry attitude toward alcohol?

William Pryer – pryerwi@mnstate.edu

As an international student, I found the very concept of MSUM’s ‘dry’ campus intriguing, having experienced a predominantly ‘wet’ campus back in England. So wet in fact that it is arguably soaking.

I am used to walking through campus passing bars, pubs and clubs on the way to a 9 a.m. class, accompanied by friends struggling with hangovers from the night before. At MSUM however, there is not a single alcohol-related establishment to be seen.

I can’t say that I wasn’t expecting this, knowing full well that the U.K. has a slightly lower drinking age than the U.S., providing alcohol access to students at age 18.

Personally, the eradication of alcohol as part of the university experience has taken a while for me to adjust to. In England, there is a whole drinking culture surrounding university life. Many British universities actively promote alcohol consumption by hosting numerous events at bars and clubs around the campus and nearby cities.

For example, ‘Freshers Week’ is a weeklong event at the beginning of the semester during which a variety of alcohol fuelled parties are hosted by the university, resulting in excess alcohol consumption, hordes of blind-drunk students and thousands of excruciating hangovers. As appalling as it seems, it is all part of the university experience.

Looking back, I think that being exposed to the drinking culture at university forced me to become responsible and respectful of alcohol, something that I don’t think would’ve happened had I not had access to alcohol on campus. I also became aware of the dangers of alcohol consumption, especially regarding students. Vandalism, fighting and sexual assault were prevalent and common problems as a result of intoxicated students. Therefore, I can understand and appreciate why MSUM chose a ‘dry campus’ policy to protect students and the environment.

But how much protection is too much protection, to the point where it prevents students from learning responsibility? I interviewed Emily, a sophomore student, for her opinion: “The problem is not stopping students drinking alcohol, but teaching them responsibility instead.”

I can understand Emily’s point. In my opinion, allowing students to have access to alcohol in a controlled, safe environment could teach students responsible drinking in preparation for the outside world. Abstinence can be dangerous, as it creates naivety and shelters individuals.

However, if alcohol was permitted on campus, it would be harder to control underage drinking, but you have to be realistic. Students are going to drink alcohol regardless of whether is it permitted or not, and whether they are underage or not. Educating students to actually understand and respect alcohol would be far more beneficial to their relationship with it, rather than expecting them to already have a sense of alcohol awareness.

Of course, I cannot speak for everyone and some students may have already had alcohol awareness classes prior to university. But there is always a minority and it is this minority which will usually cause the issues.

But what do MSUM’s students think about the dry campus status? I surveyed twenty MSUM students to find out what they really think of the policy. Interestingly, 75 percent of the students felt safer having a dry campus compared to a wet one. This statistic is unsurprising, considering the alcohol-related rape incident which happened on campus last week. However, I doubt that the statistics would’ve been drastically different if the unfortunate incident didn’t happen; if MSUM was a wet campus, intoxicated students would probably hang around on the campus. Anti-social behaviour would be created, making many students feel uncomfortable and insecure. Therefore, I can understand why students prefer having a dry campus for the sake of security.

Also, 65 percent of the students believe that the ‘dry campus’ policy is successful and I agree to some extent too. Since being here I have not encountered any anti-social behaviour whatsoever in comparison to my British university and I am actually enjoying MSUM events without the dependency on alcohol to have a good time, or feeling pressured to drink.

Whatever the policy is, alcohol should be respected and regulated. Students should be able to feel safe and secure on campus and I hope that MSUM continues to maintain this, even if it means having dry campus policy.

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