The University of Oklahoma now bans any consumption of alcohol in dorms and fraternity houses, even by students of legal age. The new policy was created after the tragic death of a student last fall from alcohol poisoning. One student said that “Even though they say it’s not a knee-jerk reaction, it was.”
“Is this going to stop people from drinking?“ asked a local police officer. “No. You are just displacing the problem somewhere else.” The well-intentioned policy has already driven much drinking off campus into uncontrolled locations.
There will probably be other unintended effects as well. A senior student pointed out that people will continue to drink but that the consequences would be different. She observed that “people used to trip and fall on their way home, now they’re going to smash into each other in their cars.”
Aware of the additional health and safety dangers created by the new policy, University officials plan to expand the school’s SafeRide program and make other efforts to discourage drunken driving.
The University‘s legal responsibility for protecting student safety extends beyond the campus. To the extent that the university shifts drinking off campus into uncontrolled environments it increases the dangers to students and also increases its exposure to legal liability.
Many colleges and universities prefer to provide safe drinking environments on campus where potential harm can be reduced and students can be more effectively protected. Many schools have also established social norms programs that reduce both the consumption and the abuse of alcohol.