Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
“Under no circumstances may any college funding be used to purchase alcoholic beverages.”
The current alcohol policy at Swarthmore states that any alcoholic beverages that are provided at events must be shouldered by students. This policy, which was introduced in 2014, has received mixed responses from students and constitutes a number of equally viable pros and cons that make continuous dialogue necessary among faculty and students.
Swarthmore students have a strong work-hard play-hard mentality, and alcohol plays a prominent role in the party culture. On Thursdays and Saturdays, many students release their pent up stress and fatigue by going to Paces or the frats to drink and socialize. Under the current policy, students have no choice but to crowdfund to provide alcohol for these events.
Yet the school denying the funding of alcohol has several benefits. Swarthmore refusing to fund alcohol sends a clear message that the administration does not affirm drinking at parties, but because it distributes alcohol permits, it simultaneously acknowledges that drinking at parties does occur.
If Swarthmore were to fund alcoholic beverages, this would lead to more underage drinking and the overall increase in alcohol consumption. Students would also have greater accessibility to alcohol because they would not have to pay out of their own pockets. This could give students a greater incentive to drink in larger quantities than if they were forced to pay for the alcohol.
Another important factor in this discussion is that not all students drink and go to parties. Hence it is arguable that school funds should be allocated to increasing financial aid or subsidies for textbooks; aid that would benefit the quality of education for the overall school population.
However, it is important to note that this policy does not prevent college students from drinking. It only instigates a stronger culture of pregaming where students consume alcohol before the party. This means that students may be consuming large quantities of alcohol alongside other students who are soon to be drunk and would not be capable of supporting them. If party hosts were financially capable of providing alcohol at the parties, students will drink, but under the watchful eye of the Swat team and in arm’s length of the aid of Public Safety.
In addition to being under the supervision of sober students, if students can openly ask for funding for alcohol, students will not be tempted to secretly provide alcohol in enclosed spaces. This transparency will ensure a safer environment for students to drink. College should also be a place where students can experience new things, and college should be a place where students can safely experiment.
It is impossible to ban alcohol from students, so why try rather than educating students? It is far safer to experiment with alcohol in Swarthmore than in the real world. Swarthmore already provides an extensive education to drinking responsibly, and Swarthmore should be a place where students can do just so.
The current alcohol policy in which students must fund alcohol is an issue that affects the social lives of Swarthmore students, and students should work to promote continuous dialogue over this policy. This contentious topic should be openly discussed between students and administration, as alcohol and parties are two aspects of our school’s culture that are inextricably intertwined.