Abuse Leads To Changed Policy
by Peter Dybdahl
response to recent incidents on campus, hard-drinking Oberlin students
may now find themselves subjected to a stricter alcohol intoxication
policy. Under the new policy, severe intoxication will incur a mandatory
evaluation. Further violations can lead to judicial action.
Passed last March by both Student Senate and the General Faculty,
the new regulation targets severe alcohol intoxication,
defined as intoxication which may be reasonably judged to
represent significant potential harm to self.
[The new policy] gives the College the means to address egregious
alcohol abuse. The previous policy made no mention of intoxication,
Dean of Students Peter Goldsmith said. [It] gives us another
tool in addressing the liabilities surrounding alcohol abuse,
The policy also includes a Good Samaritan clause: when
students call Safety and Security for help with a drunk friend,
neither caller nor friend can be cited with an alcohol violation.
It is not punitive, Goldsmith said, referring to first
offenses. It addresses health and quality of life issues.
Bill Stackman, Associate Dean of the College and member of the Judicial
Board, said the Alcohol Intoxication Policy puts into writing, long-held
unwritten college policies. Under the new policy, the College can
address intoxication with students over the age of 21 as well. It
is generally directed toward extreme cases of drunkenness, usually
in which students pass out or require medical attention, not where
someone has a buzz, Stackman said.
Student response to the Alcohol Intoxication Policy has been minimal
thus far. Junior Molly Ptacek lauded the policy as a good first
move. Oberlin doesnt do a lot to support alcohol awareness
among students. Other schools have alcohol programs, better follow-up
treatment, AA chapters, she said. Another student interpreted
the policy as a way for the College to cover its own ass,
not take care of students.
A few frustrations over the existing alcohol policy, which focuses
primarily on underage drinking, have re-surfaced as well. A second-year
student voiced his frustration that his 21-year old roommate could
drink only if the door was closed and no other underage people were
in the room. He considers the new policy oppressive.
I dont think theyll enforce it, he said,
On Saturday night there are literally hundreds of drunk students.
Are they going to give evaluations to each one?
The town of Oberlin has also made moves toward stricter enforcement,
potentially further limiting student alcohol freedoms. A former
cradle of the Womens Christian Temperance Union and a hot
bed during Prohibition, Oberlin has always advocated greater alcohol
control. The new police chief vows stricter regulation of open-container
alcohol. This, together with the new alcohol intoxication policy
might signal a general drying of the campus.
Studies by the Harvard School of Public Health show that the number
of binge drinkers on college campuses remained stable through the
nineties, but that instances of binge drinking have increased since
then. Without a Greek system and with the general attitude that
students will be responsible for themselves, many view Oberlin as
immune to the problems of excessive drinking that have plagued larger
Still, one safety and security officer commented that over the past
two years alcohol problems have gotten worse. Dean Goldsmith echoed
this statement, saying that alcohol is a matter of some concern,
especially in the past weeks when it has been linked to instances
of sexual assault.
Nevertheless, as of yet, there has been no judicial action in response
to incidents of intoxication and Oberlins Alcohol Policy remains
In July, the entire California State University system enacted a
system-wide alcohol policy that strictly enforces the existing drinking
laws in the state. In Oberlin, despite the new policy, the majority
of drinking cases are still handled by friends and Resident Assistants.
This might explain the lack of large-scale protest over the restriction
upon a right that many Oberlin students hold dear.