WILD BARLEYCORNS

In the comment printed below, the New York Times expresses its editorial alarm at the extent of drunkenness in Harvard, Princeton, and Yale and in "other seats of learning", since the passage of the Volstead Act. It admits that "precise data" is hard to get; but it argues from indications and from "reports". It draws its own inferences, first that prohibition in general is a failure in the colleges and second that college authorities should take it upon themselves to eradicate all drinking and drunkenness among students. For, it says, in the good old days there was little or no trouble due to intoxication whereas now.

"Reports" are often misleading. The good old days have always been the happy ones, free from vice, and unregenerate. The present always gets the worst of it in reports. But as a matter of fact the character of men and of students probably changes very little in the passage of a generation, and it seems to be stretching the point to say that drunkenness has increased much even since "that evil day" when the Volstead Act was passed. The stories which "old grads" love to tell, the cartoons which Lampy printed long ago, the accounts of celebrations after former football games, all seem to indicate that the flowing bowl was as freely partaken of then as it may be now.

It is chiefly the common sense of humor which guffaws at any joke smacking of anything alcoholic, which seizes on any case of drunkenness it may, and spreads the story as fast as it may, that is responsible. Perhaps this tendency reacts to make some few men proud beyond the average of their drunkenness, and so further encourages publicity. Certain it is that daily papers, as a rule, exaggerate the importance of the evil, in their attempt to cater to public taste.--The very fact that illicit liquor is so increasedly expensive prevents much drunkenness--but, it seems, Harvard, Yale and Princeton are regarded as merely one continuous "gold coast".

In any case the point is far from proved. The evidence upon which the Times bases its argument is at best unsatisfactory and incomplete. The need for extraordinary measures is slight. "Harvard authorities" will probably continue to take action only on extreme and exemplary cases, and the crop of wild oats will probably grow less in the course of time, due to a scarcity of seed, and to an increasing sanity on the part of the sowers.