Does a dry frosh week prevent alcohol abuse?

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

During Orientation Week, all alcohol was banned from Western’s residences. Dave Ward contends the ban is worthwhile, while Malcolm Aboud suggests alcohol should be allowed:

Dave: Housing switched to a dry O-week three years ago, and the results are clear. Fewer calls to SERT mean fewer students are endangered by over-consumption. First years are arriving younger than in past years. Many of them lack the skills to make smart choices when faced with so much freedom for the first time. A dry O-week allows new students to overcome the new hurdles they face before also having to learn their own alcohol limits.

Malcolm: While safety concerns are understandable, it doesn’t make sense to push underage drinking behind closed doors. First years have waited 18 or 19 years to drink during frosh week, and they’re definitely going to. SERT calls are never good, but they’re better than students getting alcohol poisoning off campus or behind closed doors.

Dave: Students arrive at university excited for new freedoms and new experiences. If they’ve waited 18 or 19 years to drink, they can wait one more week. There’s enough programming during O-week that first years don’t need to drink to be entertained. It’s true that if they want to drink they’ll do so whether or not there are rules against it. However, most students are legitimately afraid they will be put on alcohol probation or thrown out of residence. This method of deterrence is heavy-handed, but in the last couple years it has proven to work.

Malcolm: I disagree students are afraid of being caught " my first-year common room resembled a prohibition-era speakeasy. RAs know exactly who among their frosh are of age, but 18-year-olds still drink right in front of them. If the school wants to prevent irresponsible drinking, it should concentrate on enforcement of the existing rules, not on denying students who are of age the right to a beer.

Dave: Things have changed since we were in first year. Those of legal drinking age are the minority. Students agree to residence rules, this means rights they might have elsewhere are denied, including the ability to drink. Of course students are drinking behind closed doors, even during a ‘dry’ O-week. This doesn’t mean housing should throw up their hands and give in. The safety of students living in residence is the responsibility of housing. They need to do everything they can to uphold this responsibility, even if it means saving students from themselves.

Malcolm: Safety is absolutely a concern, but the way to solve the problem isn’t banning all alcohol while admitting enforcement isn’t working and kids are still drinking. If Western really wants to provide a safe environment, it needs to find a way to make sure students who drink do so responsibly, rather than trying and failing to stop them from drinking at all.

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