Drinking in Colleges
Ever since the Volstead act defined the Eighteenth Amendment, the college authorities have been in a quandary what to do about it. Naturally it is difficult to obtain precise data regarding the extent to which the act is violated in the colleges, but information from Harvard, Princeton and Yale, together with reports from other seats of learning, indicates that the effect seems to have been to drive many students from the comparative moderation of the last decade.
Prior to the Volstead act the colleges had their own code regarding drink. It was forbidden to bring intoxicants into university buildings. Drunkenness, if public, was "conduct unbecoming a scholar and a gentleman." Moreover, the man who was publicly intoxicated lost caste with his fellows. They made a nice distinction between the celebration of football victories, club elections and the like, and real addiction to drink. This state of affairs was the culmination of fifty years of growing moderation. The old days when the few men were drunkards, and the many teetotalers were yielding to an almost European practice.
In 1919 drinking rather than drunkenness became the social offense. The result was a rapid swing back from the attitude that a man might drink, but owed respect for his follows in the matter of conduct to the boyish point of view that intoxication was a joke, not on one's self, but on the law. The sense of personal responsibility was miraculously shifted from the individual to the law, and the result has been occasional debauches in the universities.
No college President can stand by and allow his students to accustom themselves to excess, but what action can be take? At Princeton, Harvard and Yale, where drinking has perhaps declined, drunkenness has apparently increased. Yet what drinking is done is done under cover. At Harvard the authorities bestir themselves to action invariably expulsion when an undergraduate awakens in the morning to find his name in the papers. The test is avoidance of publicity.
At Yale the situation is slightly complicated. President Angell attempted to make the Student Council take up the problem of undergraduate drinking, but his maneuver met with unfortunate results. In addressing the freshman class he announced that expulsion would follow the defection of any violation of the rule forbidding liquor in university buildings, and incidentally of the Volstead law. This decisive utterance puts the issue clearly, and no future offender will have just cause for complaint. Indeed, it would seem that the only way in which the collegiate public can be wooed from violating an unpopular ordinance will be by unhesitating use of power even at the cost of traditions of personal liberty. N. Y. Times