Battle of the Booze

While Harvard's Undergraduate Council members go about their business quietly, their peers at University of Massachusetts-Amherst have been battling for beer. They have been trying to change a college rule that prohibits students over 21 from having more than 24 cans of beer in their rooms at any given time. They want to expand the limit to 30 cans. This impetus for this drive has been the launch of larger cases of beer which would not conform to university regulations. The administration toyed with the idea, but several days ago decided to maintain the original limit of 24. They argued that allowing students to have more beer in their room would promote drunkenness--rather like combating obesity by setting a cap on the number of Twinkies and other sundry Hostess snack cakes that one can own.

This rule raises a remarkable and baffling array of questions and problems. How does one exactly enforce the limit? Do wandering proctors and administrators periodically stop by dorms, notebook in hand, poking around for cans and bottles? Perhaps a team of forensic experts who can determine whether the slew empty cans on the floor are evidence of recent infractions or a casual approach to cleaning?


Moreover, having beer cans as the standard unit for measurement raises an array of problems. The student government must work to develop a system of conversion where other spirituous liquors are pegged to cans of beer, just like currency exchange rates. A bottle of red wine would equal however many cans of beer, a bottle of port somewhat more and a bottle of bourbon would equal quite a few. University officials could carry the exchange rates on a convenient laminated card and rapidly work out whether a room owning a half bottle of amontillado, a third of a liter of brandy and jug of moonshine had broken the laws.

Perhaps like representatives manipulating the tax code to benefit sorghum growers and bauxite mines, administrators could hope to shape students taste with favorable exchange rates for quality products. A couple of changes to the fine print and U-Mass Amherst students will soon be known throughout the Commonwealth for their subtle and sophisticated taste in drinks.

--Charles C. DeSimone

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