Two recent incidents involving illegal possession of alcohol by underage Dartmouth College students have raised questions about the effectiveness of the school's newly revised alcohol policy, fraternity members and administrators said this week.
While administrators contend that the more stringent alcohol policy is a success and the incidents were an "anomaly," some fraternity members predict that the coming semesters will only bring more of the same because drinking patterns will not change readily.
Dartmouth's alcohol policy was revised last summer in response to a Board of Trustees mandate saying that "organizations cannot provide alcohol to anyone under 21." Previously, Dartmouth had no official policy to enforce the New Hampshire drinking age, which is 21, on campus.
The new policy allows alcohol to be served only at registered social events, and forbids students from having kegs in their rooms.
The first major violation of the revised alcohol policy occurred January 14 when Hanover, N.H., police arrested Dartmouth sophomore Richard Dunham, for unlawful possession of alcohol by a minor.
Because Dunham had obtained the alcohol at the Beta fraternity, of which he is a member, the Office of Residential Life put the fraternity on probation. The house will no longer be allowed to serve beer at social functions, although individual members will be permitted to bring alcohol to fraternity meetings, The Dartmouth reported.
According to The Dartmouth, the second incident, which occurred during the first weekend in February, involved a freshman who was served alcohol at a party sponsored by the Alpha Chi Alpha fraternity and the Delta Delta Delta sorority. Both of these were placed on probation.
Alpha Chi Alpha and Delta Delta Delta will not be allowed to have alcohol in their common rooms, to serve alcohol at their events, or to appropriate house funds for the purchase of liquor, according to Betsy Johnston, president of the Delta Delta Delta sorority.
The enforcement of the new policy has thus far been very successful, according to Bud Beatty, assistant director of residential life. "We've been very lucky because the organizations have tried very hard to take control of their social events," he said.
The recent problems are the only major alcohol-related disciplinary cases that the college has dealt with since the implementation of the alcohol policy last fall, Beatty said. They "were an anomaly and not a clue that the problems are going to be rampant," he added.
But students said while the new policy has forced fraternities and sororities to check i.d.'s, underage drinking on the whole does not seem to have significantly decreased.
Theta Delta Chi president Martin Mooney said he expects to see many such incidents in the years to come. "Since we were allowed to do certain things for a long time and now we aren't, I would look for things like this in the future," he said.
"We are five minutes away from the Vermont border, and they have a grandfather clause for people born in 1968," said Johnston. "Underage drinking has just become more private," she said.
The unusually quiet Winter Carnival last weekend demonstrated the dramatic effects of the revised policy, said fraternity officers.
"It was the smallest turnout ever," said Jason McGinnis, who is the social chairman of the Bones Gate fraternity. He added that his fraternity cancelled its annual charity benefit party because members feared it would be impossible to comply with the policy and control the alcohol consumption among the 600 people who usually attend the event.