Keg ban fails to address drinking culture

When Vassar banned kegs about four years ago, it was done to discourage drinking from open containers and provide for a more “safe” drinking culture. No students remain on campus who were around before kegs, but I’m beginning to doubt how successful this ban has been over the general notion of our “drinking culture.”

A lot of things influence an overall drinking culture, and I think we, as a student body, ought to start questioning the effectiveness of this ban, and that we should probably reverse the decision if it is failing to make the impact we anticipated nearly half a decade ago.

Vassar is not a dry campus. Registered par­ties, per Vassar regulations, are permitted al­cohol for consumption by those 21 and older. We’re fortunate to have a primarily residential campus–few students need to think about how to get home at the end of a night out at a nearby on-campus or off-campus event.

That said, a minority of the student popu­lation is over 21, and Cappy herself has made clear in previous public forums about her frus­tration about underage drinking and Vassar’s overall “drinking culture” to some extent.

I will concede administrators are rarely hap­py when talking about Vassar’s drinking cul­ture, but facts are facts: We choose to remain a campus that permits alcohol, and it’s on us as students to remind administrators of this, and that per that relationship the rules we follow remain fair to ourselves as students, fair to the campus community and fair to our neighbors in the Town of Poughkeepsie.

With this in mind, I call into question the circumstances surrounding the keg ban. I’ll admit information is a bit limited now per the Miscellany, but according to its records, the ban took place in September 2011, around the same time as the Alcohol Task Force, a joint student-administrative initiative to investigate Vassar’s drinking culture.

The report noted concerns about pre-gam­ing before parties and other activities that encourage aggressive, dangerous alcohol con­sumption. It’s clear that the drinking culture was very concerning to administrators, but now that it’s been four years, we can look back and wonder about the impact.

Now, when we look at Vassar College EMS statistics, calls related to intoxication have gone up and down in the last four years, rang­ing between 106 and 149 calls. Of course, the college has communicated extensively to in­coming students about safe drinking, alongside other efforts to improve the drinking culture on this campus.

Still, the first year of the keg ban saw an in­crease of EMS calls for intoxication from 124 to 149.

By no means am I a statistician, and to be honest there are many factors that impact these statistics, like the efforts of the Alcohol Task Force, but it’s worth noting how inconsis­tent the keg ban relates to the ongoing range of intoxication calls on campus. I really don’t think it’s fair to argue this EMS data conclu­sively argues anything, but any administrator you ask will probably argue the ban is done and there’s no reason to go back on it.

That’s what bothers me. There seems to be no logical reason a keg ban would have had any impact on our drinking culture, now or then. Parties are permitted up to 5 cases of beer, and a typical keg can have between 3 and 6 cases of beer — at best well within the range and at worst a slight excess of available alcohol.

Meanwhile, liquor consumption is definitely more prominent at Vassar parties these days than beer or other forms of alcohol. I don’t want to debate which form of alcohol is the most likely to influence binge drinking, but if one form is banned over another, perhaps we should have evidence about how it is a more dangerous form of alcohol consumption. I also wonder if this has less to do with dangerous drinking, and more about the “hazing-like” fra­ternity cultures that revolve around kegs, and Vassar’s desire to avoid that connotation at its registered parties.

I’m not going to go on about how kegs offer party planners an easier way to prepare and distribute alcohol safely to attendees, or how it’s the more sustainable, ecological choice with fewer cans and less cleaning or recy­cling.

This isn’t about trying to convince people why kegs are good–this is about demanding an explanation of why kegs are bad. Reversing a ban is about calling to question the valuable impact of that ban, and I don’t believe Vassar’s administrators can justify the ban, even with four years of data on hand, though I welcome their justifications.

I’m planning to propose a letter to the Com­mittee on College Life to reassess the impact of the college’s keg ban, and whether it has accomplished what was intended four years ago alongside other efforts to improve Vassar’s drinking culture. My belief is that the Alcohol Task Force provided far more meaningful rec­ommendations than a keg ban ever offered, and that the committee should reverse the ban be­fore the end of this semester. I plan on bringing this letter to the VSA Council on Sunday, Sept. 20. I hope everyone who agrees or disagrees about this ban comes to the VSA meeting to share their thoughts on the matter.

If you agree with these sentiments, I also im­plore you to reach out to your CCL representa­tives. Each class year has a CCL representative, excluding Freshmen who have yet to elect one. I think you should ask them to speak at the next CCL meeting regarding the keg ban, and assign members to investigate how such a ban has impacted the campus. Let me repeat the point of a ban: To positively impact the campus with the absence of something. If the keg ban has had no impact, it doesn’t deserve a ban. It’s that simple.

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