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Commencement 2010

Our Turn

Alcohol Policy

By The Crimson Staff

One of the main reactions of students at Harvard to a ban on underage drinking has been dismay. "House cohesion is going to fall apart. Let's face it--without alcohol fewer people are going to come to our parties," said one house committee chairman. However, while we believe raising the drinking age to 21 was ill-considered, and agree that the situation is unfortunate, Harvard apparently must at least try to enforce the law. Students need to take a constructive approach and avoid mere apathy in the face of this problem.

Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57's honest and reasonable approach to the matter should serve as a model for student action. His recent effort to solicit student input is an important and symbolic gesture acknowledging students' concerns and intelligence. But given the increasing risk of liability suits and the questionable morality of letting a university serve as a haven for illegal drinking, Harvard has no option but to ban underage drinking. There are several things to be done.

First, the University must establish a sensible carding system. One proposal advanced is the use of an official University I.D. or booze card. However, this would most likely create a messy bureaucracy with students piling into the registrar's office on their birthday. A better solution would be to allow students to use their drivers' licences or other official forms of I.D.

But more important than questions of enforcement is the issue of what the College can do to maintain house cohesion. Several proposals, some endorsed by the Undergraduate Council on Sunday night, deserve careful consideration.

* The council proposed that the College give house committees a budgetary supplement to enable them to hire bands, to offer video dances, to raffle plane tickets to Bermuda and other tropical paradises, and so forth.

* The council also proposed allowing house committees to seek temporary liquor permits to sell alcohol at in-house parties and to hold campus-wide parties. Administrators are probably worried that this would encourage large parties where "anyone off the street could come in and pay," as one house master said. Such a claim does not give much credit to house committees, who could require student I.D.'s, make money off the parties, and encourage inter-house mingling.

* At Masters' Open Houses and Faculty Dinners we believe students should be left on their honor. Few students really get wasted on sherry or one bottle of wine split between six people at a dinner table. And alcohol consumption at these functions is usually at its most sedate, formal and sociable--not its raucous party mode.

The key to adjusting to the new policy lies with ourselves. If students can find creative ways to maintain house life the impact of a new policy need not be devastating. A defeatist attitude belies the adulthood we have and doesn't solve the problem. Private parties will no doubt continue, and with a little effort and maturity house life might turn into something more than open keg parties.

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Commencement 2010Class of 1985