clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Duke, Lacrosse, & Alcohol

In this article by Steven Marcus of Newsday, Duke Vice President John Burness says there will be no apologies to the indicted lacrosse players, assuming charges are dropped, and given the civil suits which are likely to be filed, apologizing for anything would just be brought up in court. Duke's lawyers have surely ruled out any apologies and would be derelict if they didn't do so.

As Burness points out, the lacrosse case brought up a lot of issues, not least of all alcohol.

Part of the reason why things unfolded as they did is because Duke has tried hard to push alcohol off campus, and we're sure a major part of the reason for this was to avoid liability issues. It seems safe to say that that didn't work out quite the way anyone hoped or expected.

Hard as it may be to believe for students now, back in the day alcohol was an accepted part of campus life, and keggers were just part of things. Of course, for many Duke grads, they were able to drink the day they arrived on campus, since the legal drinking age used to be 18, until the Reagan era anyway. Most people just had to wait a few months to be legal.

There's good and bad in everything, but when alcohol was allowed on campus, it was a tradeoff. Some of the bad things which happen now happened then, too: alcohol-related accidents (though not so much auto-related), sexual assaults, and the whole myriad of related issues we're all sadly aware of.

However, when alcohol was moved off campus, if you will, that created additional problems: the strong potential for drunken driving, and parties which were unencumbered by little things like, well, dorm neighbors, roommates, campus officials and the regular pulse of academic life which mandates at least a brief sobering up for even the most dedicated drunks, assuming they want to stay in school.

From where we stand, there's no question that binge drinking seems worse now than it used to, but that's just a subjective impression since we don't hit campus parties these days. We could be wrong.

But that's not unique to Duke, nor is student drinking. One thing we'd hope would come out of this would be that Duke would, from top to bottom, including the folks who run the place but especially the students, be smarter about alcohol and the surrounding issues. If the idea in moving alcohol off campus was to avoid civil suits, that's probably backfired.

There's no panacea here - as we said, most of the bad things which come from drinking happened when it was an accepted part of campus life, too. But given the extraordinary price Duke has paid for the lacrosse situation, a frank and comprehensive discussion about the role alcohol plays on campus is, we would think, overdue. And while we're in favor of a rational alcohol policy, and are all for treating students as adults, there is a crying need for students to be more responsible about alcohol.