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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Underage drinking: what is the safest action?

<f the reasons I feel so comfortable and safe at Carleton is because I am surrounded by people who are responsible and conduct themselves respectfully in social settings, particularly when alcohol is involved. I won’t ignore the instances in which people act irresponsibly and inappropriately, but those times are in the minority, and I don’t think that they are indicative of what the social scene is like at Carleton.

That said, whenever a large-scale underage drinking confrontation with the police occurs, as it did last Friday night at the Carleton Chiefs hockey game, I usually have mixed feelings. On the one hand, no one can legitimately expect to be able to openly engage in illegal activities without risking getting into trouble. On the other hand, what I see as the potential student response to such confrontations makes me scared and uncomfortable, that response mainly being that students will no longer show up to all-school spirited events like social athletic games, but instead resort to covert, “hidden” drinking. I see “secret” drinking as much more dangerous than open drinking. It minimizes the possibilities of other students to “check up” on each other, as well as limiting one’s ability to judge his or her behavior against other people’s. It also allows for more inappropriate behavior than would be permissible in a more open, social setting.

We live in a country with a flawed drinking law. Though it may be futile to argue that it should be different than it is, it is important for us to be conscious of the fact that we have to deal with the abuse of the law in a safe way, since it is obviously an issue everywhere. This, in my opinion, does not necessarily mean cracking down hard every time there is an underage drunk person. One of the reasons the drinking scene can be dangerous at schools is because students don’t have a lot of experience drinking in social situations (at least, without fearing legal repercussions). What our law has created, at least at colleges and universities, is a social setting that revolves around drinking. The hockey games, I think, are a lot of fun and a great experience because the main purpose of them is not to drink; rather, it is to support a Carleton team while socializing simultaneously. Now that, since of last week, the rink has been designated as a legally dangerous place, it is unfortunate that students might stop going, and instead go drink alone in their rooms.

I do not disagree with the enforcement of the law in and of itself at the hockey game; I was not even there. However, after speaking to a couple of students who were written up and after hearing their anger and frustration, I fear that we are essentially moving to “cover up” a problem instead of addressing it safely. Writing up a large amount of people, many of whom were not engaging in rowdy or unsafe behavior, sends the message to students that, instead of going out to socialize in a place where they risk getting an MIP, they should stay in their dorm rooms and drink privately, where they won’t caught. Maybe the safest action for authorities isn’t taking action, but giving responsibility instead.

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