Darmouth’s New Alcohol Management Policy

To protect and, well, stop alcohol from being served.

To protect and, well, stop alcohol from being served.

Despite the controversy, Moving Dartmouth Forward shows no signs of stopping. The hard alcohol ban is now being followed with a new, more stringent Alcohol Management Procedure (AMP) that seeks to better keep track of all Greek social activities by increasing social registration requirements. Accountability Chair of the Greek Leadership Council Taylor Watson ‘16 outlined many of the goals of the new policy, which are more focused on keeping tabs on the distribution of alcohol than anything else.

The AMP is the newest version of a policy that is revised about every two years to adjust to as well as influence the current campus climate. A group of students, administrators, and representatives from Safety and Security (S&S) co-chaired by Dean Kristi Clemens drafted the new rules, although no meeting has yet taken place between Greek leaders and S&S concerning the issue.

Students can expect to deal with increasing levels of supervision from S&S. Watson noted that only 25% of social events like tails parties were being registered with the college prior to the new policy: “The goal of the policy is to have all parties registered. Not so [S&S] can crash it, but just so that they know where the alcohol is so that if something does go wrong, they’re not completely blindsided.”

The direction in which the policy’s focus shifted was not decided lightly. Assistant Dean and Director of Case Management Kristi Clemens headed the working group which included students like Watson, as well as administrators and representatives from S&S. Watson emphasized the bottom-up mindset that the group adopted as they considered the issues in Dartmouth’s social climate that need to be addressed: “Why do we have this policy, what are its goals, what do other schools do, what have we done in the past?”

Watson further recalls one singularly vocal representative from S&S that drove the committee’s result-oriented approach. “Safety and Security especially was vocal, there was one guy in particular who kept saying, ‘The safest parties are run this way, so we should do them this way.’” This emphasis on student safety detracts from a popular—if rarely vocalized—sentiment on campus that the changes within Moving Dartmouth Forward are designed to be punitive and address Greek Life’s negative media image: “They would have just gotten rid of the Greek system if they wanted to do that.”

In order to know where alcohol is being consumed at all times, the administration is doing away with spontaneous events by making it mandatory to register all parties in advance. Greek houses can no longer register “on-the-fly,” alerting S&S to a growing rager as it forms: “The reality is, even deciding on-the-fly to manage [a party] is not nearly as effective as knowing that you’re going to manage it properly ahead of time. If these bartenders that need to be sober can’t, all of a sudden, decide to be sober if, you don’t want to have to run around the house trying to find people.”

The new policy is much less concerned with minimizing standard drinks consumed per person, which has previously been a murky point of inconsistent perception and misaligned goals between the Greek system and administration: “The students quickly brought up that, if you want us to register, we have to be honest with you,” Watson recalled. “And the honest fact is that we don’t have one drink per person per hour for twenty-one-year-olds only. It’s just never been true and never will be true.” In past years, the Social Events Management Policy (SEMP) has attempted to regulate the goings-on of frat basements, focusing on the social host’s liability and risk management. The shift toward managing the flow of alcohol into the basement represents a change of priority in the College’s social life: “That’s why we changed the name over to Alcohol Management Procedure, to emphasize that.”

In theory, Watson noted that, “it’s a lot less stressful for social chairs, risk chairs, and presidents to know that if Safety and Security does come through, they’re not going to have to hide all of this alcohol all of a sudden.” However, additional stresses more than make up for this concession.

Accountability is being enforced through more frequent and in-depth walkthroughs that will assess whether the correct bartender is on duty, whether there are too many students, and whether everything matches up with what was registered for that night or day with significantly less flexibility than the past.  Implementation thus far has been flawed, with many complaining that policy is unnecessarily convoluted. Despite this, Watson asserted that, “If you’re going to be the Social Chair for a term, you can take an hour to understand this policy. You go to Dartmouth.” Even if it’s not intuitive that fraternities cannot have cans and kegs, he maintains that it is a simple enough rule to follow.

The change is representative of the administration’s increasing desire to curb the influence of Greek life as an independent force on campus. Watson argued that the fraternities having social capital does not make them exempt from the responsibility of providing a safe social environment. “The most responsible approach is to say, we know we have two people who are going to be behind the bar and we know we have two people who are going to be at the door.” While in some sense, the emphasis on role accountability minimizes the opportunity for the Greek houses to circumnavigate the policy, Watson views the change as an opportunity to realign Greek and administrative goals: “We know this is what you are doing, and that you are probably going to do that regardless. How can we work with you to make sure you’re managing what you’re doing correctly, rather than stop doing this.”

Ultimately, it remains to be seen whether this revised approach will yield the results that Watson and the working group hope. However, it is clear that the administration will not stop regulating until the Greek system’s negative media image is resolved: “It’s hard to argue that [we] were not concerned about the image of the Greek system.”