Tewhey's response is appropriate
Uncontrolled drinking is on the rise on area campuses. At Boston College, 31 students -- twice as many as last year -- have been hospitalized in alcohol-related incidents so far this year, The Boston Globe reported on Saturday. According to a recent article in The Harvard Crimson, six students were treated at the university's medical center in alcohol-related incidents over a single weekend. These incidents demonstrate a failure on the part of students to safeguard their own health.
At MIT, the recent conviction of Thomas S. Kang '91 on assault and battery charges reminds us of the close connection between drinking and violence. Often, that violence takes the form of sexual assault; at least one instance of acquaintance rape has been reported this year in which alcohol was used at levels resulting in memory loss. A recent Medical Department survey of 1000 undergraduates found that 22 percent of them "had been on the receiving end of an unwelcomed sexual proposition by somebody who was inebriated," according to Associate Dean for Student Affairs James R. Tewhey.
In this context, it is most appropriate for Tewhey to advocate increased measures to combat alcohol abuse by students. At a recent Undergraduate Association Council meeting, he told council representatives, "I have no desire at all to end underage drinking. . . . I do, though, have the desire to have people respond responsibly to the issue of alcohol." He felt students must become more active in policing their own behavior. He was right, and his efforts have been commendable. Most impressive among his initiatives has been his recent amendment to the surprise ban on kegs instituted this term.
As a story in The Tech published over a month ago indicated ["Keg ban does not apply to big parties," Sep. 21], the keg ban is essentially a non-policy: It does not apply to large parties with one-day liquor licenses -- precisely those in which most beer drinking takes place. Tewhey's amendment is a confirmation of the keg ban's impotence, and for that reason it sends the proper signal: Students will not have to take their drinking underground and turn to more concentrated, and hence dangerous, forms of alcohol. The keg ban was a hasty, misguided response to alcohol abuse, and did nothing but harbor potential for exacerbating the problem. Indeed, in Saturday's Globe article, Boston College's dean for student development, Robert Sherwood, said part of the blame for increased alcohol abuse on his campus fell on its ban on kegs and a resulting rise in the use of hard liquor. This assessment seems obvious; beer contains less alcohol and is much more filling than hard liquors. Thus, those who consume vodka or whiskey will find it much easier than beer drinkers to drink at levels which pose danger to themselves and others.
Tewhey is correct to adopt a tougher stance on alcohol. And his decision to downplay the keg ban does not counter those efforts. We now challenge him to fully repeal this defunct policy and deal with alcohol abuse problems more directly.