Drinking Age

Dartmouth To Give Hard Alcohol Prohibition the Old College Try

It won't work.

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Animal House
Animal House

Dartmouth College will prohibit students from drinking hard liquor on campus—even booze purchased legally by 21-year-olds. Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon told The Washington Post:

"The evidence is clear: Hard alcohol is posing a serious threat to the health and safety of our campus," Hanlon said in a prepared speech he planned to deliver Thursday morning on the campus in Hanover. Most of the time when alcohol causes a medical problem, he said, "it is hard alcohol — rather than just beer or wine — that lands students on a hospital gurney."

Hanlon continued: "We do not need hard alcohol at Dartmouth. In fact, many students have suggested it shouldn't be here. Beginning today, Dartmouth will take a lead among colleges in dealing with hard alcohol on campus. Hard alcohol will not be served at events open to the public — whether the event is sponsored by the college or by student organizations. Penalties for students found in possession of hard alcohol will ramp up. And so will penalties for those who purchase and provide any alcohol to minors."

I agree that alcohol abuse is a serious problem at Dartmouth and other college campuses—and a key factor in sexual assault accusations—but why on earth would anyone expect a return to Prohibition fix the issue? For most students, abusing hard liquor is already prohibited—not by some stupid school rule, but by the law, under penalty of fines, community service, and even jail time. Why does Hanlon think he can achieve something the police have failed to accomplish for decades?

Telling teens not to drink hard alcohol is akin to daring them to do it anyway—especially at a party school like Dartmouth (fun fact: as a Dartmouth undergrad, Hanlon was a brother at the fraternity that inspired the movie Animal House). Want to make teen alcohol abuse even more dangerous, unpredictable, and outside the purview of authority figures? Try even harder to stamp it out.

Such an approach is pushy, draconian, and infantilizing. And it won't work.

For an alternative, libertarian solution to the binge drinking crisis, read my feature for Reason's Congressional to-do list, "Congress, End the Hangover: Abolish the Federal Drinking Age."