The college blackout culture has long been an issue in dire need of attention. It is common for college students to drink in excess, causing problems such as addiction and hospitalization. Some universities across the country have attempted to take a stand against this issue of binge drinking by implementing a ban on hard alcohol.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is the next one in line. UNL’s Interfraternity Council has approved a hard alcohol ban effective Aug. 1, 2019. Any beverages containing above 15% alcohol will no longer be allowed in fraternities or at off-campus fraternity events. This ban is intended to decrease the amount of alcohol-related incidents occurring at these events.
This ban will be in effect once the 2019-20 school year starts. Although guidelines are not set in stone yet, fraternities caught with hard alcohol will be required to attend an alcohol education course. Any further offenses will result in fines.
While banning hard alcohol like vodka and tequila in favor of beer or malt liquor may seem like a productive idea, it will likely not be feasible or effective. Despite the Interfraternity Council’s admirable motives in implementing a hard alcohol ban, there is no way of ensuring students will actually follow it. Stating there will be a ban is not enough to stop students from consuming copious amounts of hard alcohol.
The banning of hard alcohol at fraternity events is UNL’s way of standing with other big-name universities, like Harvard or Dartmouth. Because this ban is a fairly new thing for universities across the United States, there is insufficient data to show that a ban is effective at all.
A survey of Dartmouth students found 85% of the student body consumed hard alcohol after the ban was put into place. Universities who have a ban still deal with students drinking in excess, resulting in the same alcohol-related problems as universities that do not have a ban. On the other hand, a report by Harvard’s College Alcohol Study shows that colleges that enforce a ban have a 30% decrease in heavy drinkers and an increase in students choosing to abstain from alcohol.
What could be the case here is that some schools, such as Harvard, actually enforce this ban. They provide rehabilitation programs and addiction counseling to students who are caught violating this ban. Other universities, such as Dartmouth, do not enforce their ban on hard alcohol, stating students’ punishment is left up to the law.
Further guidelines should come with the ban, such as how the university will keep track of what its students are providing at parties and what the punishments will mean for their educational career. Schools should also provide students with assistance if they are struggling with alcoholism or peer pressure to conform to the binge drinking culture.
Many universities, such as Stanford and the University of Virginia, put bans in place as a way of curbing the occurrence of traumatic events like sexual assault and gang rape, which are often associated with excessive consumption of alcohol.
While this action is intended for good, it does not address what lies at the core of sexual assault and rape. This sort of response makes alcohol seem like the reason people are being sexually assaulted, rather than lack of education on consent. To put so much of the blame on alcohol is an ignorant assumption to make. It solves a symptom of the problem rather than the actual problem itself. Though UNL’s motives are unclear, if this is the reason behind its decision to implement the ban, it is misguided and not the right way to deal with this issue.
Alcohol, though a factor, is not the reason that rates of sexual assault on campus always seem to be so high. By instilling a ban in response to those cases of sexual assault, it is placing the blame on a substance rather than on one’s actions. If universities want to protect students from such things, an alcohol ban is not the right answer.
While a ban does address the issue of binge drinking on college campuses, it is difficult to enforce and should have further guidelines as to how it will be enacted. Though the university says it is serious about addressing the issues of drinking and underage drinking, a blanket ban will not be powerful enough to stop students from getting wasted on the weekends.
If UNL wants to see success with the ban, the university needs to create strict guidelines and a concrete plan for students to follow if they violate the ban. It is idealistic to think that simply stating a ban exists will lower the amount of students who choose to drink. The fact that the university wants to take some sort of action is optimistic, but it is extremely debatable as to whether this ban will make a difference at all.