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Alcohol Policy Blurs Lines of Common Sense

It is interesting at times to take a look at the UT rules about alcohol, taken from the Code of Conduct issued by the Office of Student Conduct. These are rules to which all students are bound. Most of the rules are fairly standard: no public drinking, no drunken driving, and so on.

It is interesting at times to take a look at the UT rules about alcohol, taken from the Code of Conduct issued by the Office of Student Conduct. These are rules to which all students are bound.

Most of the rules are fairly standard: no public drinking, no drunken driving, and so on. But some of them, especially recent additions, are questionable at best.

Hell, you are not even allowed to have knowledge about someone else in a place such as the Rath, if this person has alcohol and you aren’t allowed to drink. Under UT’s “constructive possession” rules, you can also be presumed to be in possession if another person has alcohol and there is enough for you to also possibly have some.

Along this same line, you might commit a social host violation if someone underage brings their own alcohol and drinks it in your room. The code of conduct sternly advises that you card your guests. This is, of course, entirely reasonable and always well-received. Sometimes I break the ice on dates by demanding a photo ID, for that matter.

By far the most interesting part of the code about alcohol, however, is that it states that “intoxication by any student, regardless of age, whether in public or in private, is prohibited.” While various “symptoms” such as a loss of good judgment are listed (a fact often advertised by my bed, come Sunday morning), there is no provision for degree or standards. We are left to presume that any degree of intoxication is a violation.

So please be aware: while you are a UT student, and whether you are in public or at home, you are not allowed to become tipsy without breaking the alcohol policy. The mere state of being drunk has been made a violation of the UT code of conduct, and will carry escalating penalties of community service, suspension, and finally expulsion. Some might argue that it is implied that this rule applies only on campus, but there is no provision for that specificity: the only rules are those written down.

I hate to be dipping into Orwell so early in the semester, but it is clear that if telescreens were legal, UT would be bringing them in by the truckload for the sole purpose of stopping people from drinking alcohol three years before they are allowed.

There are various schools of thought about those who drink at university age. Some feel that, by prohibiting alcohol in almost every public venue and making it a crime against policy to be intoxicated even in the privacy of one’s room, they “are striving to educate our students, and to assist students in making healthy choices” (this is according to an Office of Student Conduct statement). That’s an admirable goal, and one with which I am sure the parents of prospective UT students agree. But I have to question whether or not UT’s alcohol policies will actually help with this goal.

People generally drink alcohol in order to become intoxicated, to a slight degree of pleasant warmth or to the excessiveness of obliteration. The taste is very important, and I am not claiming that many people do not drink for enjoyment of the beverage itself. Some wines are delicious, and whisky-making creates beverages of remarkable textures and tastes. But in the end, the reason why alcohol has been so prized and varied over millennia is because it intoxicates you. This appears to be an uncomfortable fact for many people, but it remains true. And I believe the good people at the Office of Student Conduct have lost sight of that, or are purposefully ignoring it.

So if we make it illegal to drink for the very reason anyone gets drunk, to become intoxicated to even a mild degree, are we really teaching students how to enjoy alcohol responsibly? Aren’t we really trying to say that they just shouldn’t use alcohol at all, a perspective clearly derived from perceived university liability? Aren’t we saying: “Postpone learning how to responsibly drink, and how to get that tipsy loose tongue and drunken camaraderie and when to start and when to stop”? Aren’t we essentially abdicating our responsibility to these boy-men and girl-women who have arrived to learn not just facts, but life, who have already had their lives retarded by the eternal American Adolescence?

It’s not exactly a responsible decision, is it?

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