Three areas should be the focus of changes to Penn's existing alcohol policy. We do so with some measure of apprehension. As we have often noted, alcohol abuse is fundamentally not an issue that regulations can address -- there is no way to prevent students from drinking to excess, and even attempting to do so invariably risks grave infringements on civil liberties. But we continue to believe that Penn has a role to play in constructing an environment where students can consume alcohol in a responsible fashion. And so, there are three areas that must be at the heart of any revised alcohol policy: education, the sale of alcohol and the appropriate enforcement of existing policies. We strongly urge the addition of a truly mandatory alcohol education component to freshman orientation. Such a program should begin from the premise that students will drink. Upperclassmen should talk with freshmen about their personal experiences, providing practical advice on responsible drinking. Speakers whose lives have been touched by alcohol-related tragedies are also particularly effective apostles of the dangers of excessive consumption. Such a class stands to benefit all students, even those who don't consider themselves drinkers: all it takes is an extraordinary evening or a friend who drinks more than you do. The second area where existing measures could be improved upon is in ensuring that underage students cannot purchase alcohol on or around campus. Penn already has some ammunition for this campaign in the form of a $360,000 grant from the state's Combatting Underage Drinking Program. And providing area establishments with scanners capable of establishing ID authenticity is also worthwhile. The third area is the most nuanced -- the enforcement of existing laws and University regulations. The simplest of these is the law against carrying open containers. Police are well within their rights to cite individuals seen doing so. Furthermore, it is appropriate for police to be citing obviously inebriated individuals walking on or around campus. However, when students are behind the doors of their residences, they ought to have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Police should not enter residences merely on the suspicion that alcohol is being consumed within. Furthermore, we are disturbed by any suggestion that police might wait for possible underage drinkers to emerge from a residence. If they don't have another reason for being there, they shouldn't be there at all. However, when police have some other reason for entering a private residence -- for example, excessive noise levels -- it is appropriate for them to cite underage drinkers while there. The committee will also be addressing specific events on the spring calendar, chief among them Spring Fling. Here, we would hope that police act with the health and safety of students as their only concern. Attempts to overenforce regulations are unlikely to further this goal. We encourage police to act with past years as their model, ensuring that a good and safe time is had by all. In the final analysis, the report should reflect the overriding importance of personal responsibility.Comments powered by Disqus
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