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May 05, 2011 4:09 PM Another Anti-Drinking Project Off to the Wrong Start

By Daniel Luzer

According to an article in the The Dartmouth, a few colleges are now starting to treat binge drinking like a public health problem, rather than just a campus discipline problem. As Casey Aylward writes:

Dartmouth will collaborate with 13 other colleges and universities on a new initiative — the Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking — that the College created to address alcohol use on campuses across the country, College President Jim Yong Kim said in a press conference Monday afternoon. The Collaborative is an information exchange partnership that will track the progress of initiatives designed to reduce harmful alcohol-related incidents and binge drinking, Kim said.
Each participating school will appoint a team of students, administrators and faculty members to participate in monthly conference calls regarding various approaches to alcohol policies on member campuses, according to Kim.

The schools will work together to “test new strategies, scientifically measure the results and share their findings,” according to an article about the Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking by Jenna Johnson in the Washington Post.

This is an interesting idea but it won’t work. All of this collaboration and research gathering will just waste time and money and not have a significant impact on alcohol consumption, certainly not at Dartmouth at least.

One member of the Learning Collaborative, Jonathan Gibralter of Maryland’s Frostburg State University, explained how his anti-drinking campaign starts. According to the Post article: “The fight against dangerous drinking starts at open houses with prospective students and their parents. The message: Despite what you might have heard, this is not a party school.”

This sort of attitude, however, only perpetuates the myth that college drinking is all about perception. Go ahead and “scientifically measure the results” all you want but come on, no one ever thought Dartmouth was a party school.

Dartmouth’s alcohol problem is clearly structural. You know why Dartmouth students drink a lot? Because they go to a small school in Hanover, New Hampshire where there isn’t much to do socially except get drunk.

In order to fix that problem you’d have to physically relocate the school.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer