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Alcohol Policy Teaches Fear and Ignorance



Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis' letter in The Crimson (Oct. 24) detailing the College's policies on alcohol was laden with contradictions and a clear lack of understanding and remoteness from student life.

One of the strongest and most false statements that Lewis makes is, "Intoxication is associated with every form of adverse social behavior occurring at Harvard: physical violence, sexual assault, disturbance of the peace and other antisocial acts." Lewis' comment is poorly though out. When Sinedu Tadese murdered her roommate in Dunster House a few years ago she was not intoxicated. Adverse behavior is a result of people who already have it and arrive at a college that unfortunately excels in promoting the worst in people and being negligent in taking care of such people. As Lewis himself admits, "Excessive drinking is often a consequence of deeper emotional or psychological problems...The adverse behavior is unrelated to the drinking."

Lewis continues by saying that students who frequent places where heavy drinking occurs are placing themselves in danger of physical assault, sexual violence and other forms of harm. He includes fraternities--both the unofficial ones at Harvard and those on other campuses, among such dangerous places. Essentially, Lewis feels that any woman who goes to a party, at, say, a final club, is asking to be raped; or that anyone who goes to a bar is inviting those around him who are drinking to beat him or her up. Clearly, this assumption is both unrealistic and unhealthy. The point Lewis makes is rather offensive, laying blame on the woman who is raped because she attends an establishment that permits drinking or on the man who gets beaten up at a bar. Lewis serves only to contradict himself, accusing the people who go to parties and bars rather than the alcohol which might cause such behavior.

Another problem with Lewis' published outline is that the policy makes it safer as College disciplinary action to drink at dangerous levels and incur hospitalization rather than be caught by a College official after just one beer. Lewis reminds us, "Student medical records are confidential. Students will not be subject to College discipline for violation of alcohol policy as a result of seeking medical care for intoxication." On the other hand, Lewis notes that underage drinkers who are caught will be subject to discipline by the Administrative Board. Some students prone to adverse-behavior might choose to drink dangerous levels of alcohol and have their stomachs pumped in the emergency room rather than endure possible suspension or probation from their prestigious alma mater. Although this might be an exaggeration, perhaps many students will not fear excess drinking since they are offered a safety net in the form of confidentiality if anything goes wrong.

Nothing positive can come from Lewis' policy of teaching fear and ignorance.

Alexis M. Goodman '98

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