A new approach to preventing binge drinking on campus?

A humorous article in this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education presents a new approach for getting at the impervious problem of collegiate binge drinking:

“Tame attempts to address the problem — alcohol-counseling meetings, intensified training of resident counselors, and SWAT-team sweeps through the dorms — clearly have failed to deal with this intractable problem.

“We are encouraged, then, by news of efforts to think outside the box, to implement radical solutions to a radical problem. Leading the way is tiny Lucifer College in Minnesota. As Lucifer’s dean told us, “What we need to do is to make binge drinking unfashionable. And there’s one foolproof way to do that: We have to get the faculty involved.”

“To wit, this year Lucifer will begin sending faculty members into dorms to bartend beer bashes, while students will be invited to faculty cocktail parties, where they will be encouraged to drink in the company of their professors. Preliminary studies suggest that the sight of doddering septuagenarians with gin blossoms on their nostrils, sloshing martinis on their bow ties and tweed jackets while holding forth about Cicero, can reduce student consumption of alcohol dramatically.”

The article, which was written by two Amherst College professors, goes on to describe a campus culture where courses on alcohol are incorporated across the curriculum, where professors attend students parties, and where binge drinking has become so unpopular that the bars in town have been forced to stop serving beer.

While farcical, some lessons may be learned from this account of fictional Lucifer College. At many colleges and universities, faculty members are barred from gatherings with students–even those older than 21–involving alcohol. Where professors were once able to interact with students socially and model responsible behavior around alcohol at departmental and course-related functions, this type is interaction has effectively ceased. It has been replaced by a campus culture marked by a disconnect between faculty and students and a general wariness on the part of faculty to interact in student life outside the classroom. Students confine their drinking–more intense now than it was two or three decades ago–to dorm rooms, frat houses, and off-campus parties.

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