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While we are encouraged by the University's efforts to revise its alcohol policy, new facts make it painfully clear that the rules in place do not serve the University's paramount interest: student safety. According to a report by Alcohol Policy Coordinator Stephanie Ives, the number of registered on-campus parties fell 24 percent between 1998-99 and 1999-2000. Keep in mind, however, that the number of parties in 1998-99 was already lower than normal because of the large number canceled after alumnus Michael Tobin's death at the Phi Gamma Delta house. What this and overwhelming anecdotal evidence lead us to conclude is not that fewer parties are being held, but that the scene is shifting to less-regulated and less-safe off-campus locations. Penn should prefer that students drink on campus, a regulated environment where help is more readily available in the event of an emergency. But given the red tape and onerous rules, it is simply becoming too much of a hassle for student organizations to register parties for on-campus locations. Indeed, University alcohol officials seem to recognize this. Rules have reportedly been bent on occasion to allow late registration for on-campus parties. What is needed then is a clear accounting from University officials on where they stand vis-…-vis on-campus parties, and rules that reflect that reality. If officials would prefer parties be held on campus rather than off, then they should design a policy that doesn't discourage students from holding their parties on campus. The challenge, of course, is devising a meaningful policy. The new rules, unveiled this week, do nothing in this regard. Repeal of the BYOB requirement -- a silly idea from the beginning, and an abject failure in practice -- is a sign that officials are letting campus culture shape the rules, instead of it being the other way around. Several of the other policies seem headed for similar destinies. The rule against using student funds for alcohol seems to be largely a matter of accounting. And as for the rule against drinking games, we would be at once horrified and amused to see University officials try to remove a beer pong table from a frat house basement. Given that the University has to be officially against underage drinking -- a phenomenon that won't disappear from campus any time soon -- there will always be a disconnect between any alcohol policy and alcohol reality. But where Penn can influence the campus drinking culture, it would be well advised to encourage, not penalize, safer on-campus parties.

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