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The Daily Wildcat


Column: Boo to Dartmouth’s brand new booze policy

Lately, there has been a lot of conversation in the national media about the problem of sexual assault on college campuses.

Part of this conversation comes from the increasing visibility that this issue is receiving, which is great. The other part of the conversation, though, stems from the various policy decisions universities are enforcing as part of an effort to curb campus sexual assault. Some of these policies, while well meaning, can actually add to the greater problems behind sexual assault. Casual sexism and rape culture can remain pervasive even in the face of these “solutions.”

A good example of this is Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, which recently announced a campuswide ban on hard liquor. The policy was intended as an umbrella attempt to curb binge drinking; however, the policy was also meant, at least in part, to alleviate the problem of sexual assault on the campus.

As Philip Hanlon, president of Dartmouth College, stated in reference to the sexual assault policy, “When it comes to a safe environment, … we know that excessive drinking is one of the most pressing challenges we face.”

What Hanlon is missing is that while cutting out hard liquor will certainly eliminate some dangerous behaviors — though it’s questionable whether a campus ban will truly limit students’ access to hard alcohol in the first place — this policy is not really addressing the root of the problem.

Sexual assault is not caused by alcohol. Regardless of the presence of alcohol, taking advantage of someone sexually is wrong. That’s the lesson universities should be emphasizing; it would cut the problem off at the source.  

UA-based social activism group Students Promoting Empowerment And Consent agrees, claiming, “Alcohol is merely used as a tool by perpetrators; sexual assault and alcohol misuse are not synonymous.”

Banning hard alcohol, regardless of whether it actually curbs binge drinking, will never address the real problems behind sexual assault.

“Many people have the misconception that sexual assault happens as a result of sexual desire and lacking impulse control,” SPEAC notes, in which case eliminating alcohol and the impairment of judgment that results might help the problem. “In reality, sexual assault is performed by those who wish to dominate and overpower their partner.”

It’s not just university presidents making these generalizations about the presence of alcohol and sexual assault, either. Recently, greek chapter presidents from the National Panhellenic Conference, an organization that has direct authority over campus chapters of Greek Life, ordered sororities at the University of Virginia not to attend parties during rush week. This move, which was ostensibly for the female students’ safety, rings more like a punishment for the misdeeds of others.  

The students, understandably, were not happy; around 2,000 of them were affected by the partying ban. In a widely circulated letter to the national representatives, students at the university declared, “Our concerns lie in the way sorority women are being used as leverage to change the actions and behaviors of fraternity men.”

If women are treated as weak and defenseless in the very “solutions” to sexual assault on campus that are meant to help them, it does nothing to fix the systemic sexism and violence that can lead to rape. The problem of assault will not go away by simply forcing the issue off the table temporarily.

In reality, the solution to the problem of sexual assault on college campuses is not as simple as eliminating hard liquor or keeping students home from parties. Let’s treat rapists like rapists — they’re in the wrong, not hapless victims of binge-drinking culture. Universities should forward policies that emphasize that basic fact, including those that allow for outreach, education and support of victims.


Maddie Pickens is an economics freshman. Follow her on Twitter.

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