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Gottlieb: Dartmouth’s ban on alcohol does more harm than good

The Durham 500
By Greg Gottlieb
I look back at the period known as Prohibition (1920-1933) as one of the greatest moments of embarrassment and failure on the part of our national government in its history. The consumption of alcohol for pleasure within a given society was barely a newfound hobby at the time and Americans were certainly not the first to partake; rather, the origins
of the act can be traced as far back as the world’s earliest recorded civilizations. Movements like the Anti-Saloon League and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (two of the groups most heavily-credited with jumpstarting the Prohibition movement) raised valid arguments surrounding the negative effects of the overconsumption of alcohol. It goes without saying, some of their arguments remain valid today. But as we now look back on and comprehend more clearly, eliminating alcohol from reality is not a feasible option and is not a solution to the problem that Prohibition intended to solve. Apparently, however, this notion doesn’t come as clearly to some.
In an email last Thursday, the president of our New Hampshire neighbor, Dartmouth College, informed students that the administration is taking steps toward banning hard alcohol on campus, as part of a plan called “Moving Dartmouth Forward.” According to the president’s plan, as outlined on its website, this will help tackle the “challenge of excessive drinking.” But is excessive drinking really the school’s challenge?  Can the school really have an excessive drinking problem if it is merely a concentrated cluster of buildings? I mean to say, sarcastically of course, that the challenge of excessive drinking is that of individuals, and thus, it is the individual who should take responsibility and be held accountable for his or her actions.
We witness this sense of culpability in various ways on our campus and in varying capacities. Often, these moments occur on a greater scale than in hordes of students parading up Strafford Avenue carrying reused Poland Spring bottles half-filled with cheap, rubbing alcohol-flavored vodka. I like to think that, for the most part, we students at the University of New Hampshire are generally responsible when they choose to drink, but we have had our ups and downs as a  unified student body in recent years.
When students took to the streets to celebrate the 2013 World Champions of baseball, unarguably, things got out of hand. Finger-pointing between the responding police forces and the celebrating students aside, alcohol seemed to play a prevalent role in the festivities. Unarguably, the end result was negative attention cast on our university. It’s important to remember, however, that those moments will often times get a brighter spotlight and create a louder buzz than the more honorable moments we create here like UNH Dance Marathon, student organizations’ contributions to surrounding communities, and the wonderful things that our university offers the public of the greater Seacoast area.
All of us know someone who has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol and perhaps everyone can recall a tragedy that came as a result of its overconsumption. But if we step back and evaluate the existence of alcohol in our society, it is clear that it is yet another “unnatural” innovation by man wedged into our otherwise “natural” way of life. Just like our hurtling  metal transportation machines called “cars,” our hour-long televised entertainment spectacles called “sports,” and other manufactured marvels of man, there comes added responsibility, risk, and consequence with the mystical liquid concoction we know as “alcohol.” This, in my opinion, is quite literally the epitome of our purpose here: to augment, add to, tamper with, and experiment on the big blue marble we’ve been given by carefully and confidently injecting into it some “stuff” of our own.
As with many dry campuses, towns, and cultures, Dartmouth’s plan will fail. Just like Prohibition, there will be bootleggers, speakeasies and smugglers, introducing a whole new group of criminals in the process, consequently and ironically removing the importance of the target on real college campus criminals like sexual assailants.
Whether you’re finishing out your first year of college and still getting the hang of the whole routine or if you just recently submitted your “intent to graduate” form to the registrar, hopefully, by now, you’ve realized something important: Your primary reason for being here doesn’t involve training your brain to retain information written on a whiteboard in a classroom. College is about learning from mistakes, managing priorities, attaining a better understanding of the world, and exploring unfamiliar topics and issues without the interference of external influences or dependence on anyone but one’s self.
I am a firm believer that getting arrested for disorderly conduct, working off a hangover from hell, and embarrassing one’s self at a campus bar as a result of excessive drinking are far less detrimental to a given community (and perhaps a more effective method of discipline) than the ones of diminishing the importance of personal responsibility, shielding the youth from every ounce of evil and immorality, and devaluing the importance of good parenting. While it is obvious that the new regulations set forth in the president’s plan are well-intended and very well may bring some improvement to certain areas of campus life, I think it might serve Dartmouth’s president well to reconsider his course of action, starting with re-reading the reminder inscribed at the top of his New Hampshire license plate.
Greg Gottlieb is a senior hospitality management major who comments on noteworthy topics in the UNH and Durham communities. Follow Greg on Twitter @gottliebgregory.

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