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Column: What's in that bottle?

I fondly remember my introduction to fraternity parties on a hot September night freshman year. A bunch of us bright-eyed freshmen, hundreds of us. excitedly boarded the bus with alcohol fresh on our breath. We traversed West Campus from frat party to frat party, reveling in the minimal amount of alcohol we managed to find from sympathetic frat brothers. This became the routine for the first months of school.

We knew about the "dry" East Campus, and West Campus was a safe haven for drunken debauchery. The only word of caution we received: cups not cans. Those useful blue and red Solo cups. Occasionally, we delighted in finding a white and blue Sam's Quick Shop cup. After a few weeks of cup-bearing we understood the apparent reason behind the unofficial "cups not cans" rule on West Campus: Duke Police.

Stories of students getting caught drinking alcohol on West started pervading the conscience of freshmen as quickly as MGD through a cheap beer bong. A few stupid freshmen were probably jumping around and yelling "die pigs die" as they party-hopped. We were safe with cups and water bottles with clear liquid resembling water.

Moving to West Campus this year as one of those sophomores dominating Main West, I quickly discovered that the Solo cup rule was not as hard and fast as we oblivious freshmen once thought. I have been shocked at the arbitrary enforcement of the alcohol policy.

Let me describe a scene most us are all too familiar with. It's a pleasant Friday October evening on West Campus. Several fraternities and selective living groups throw splendid parties outside the view of the independent corridor. Freshmen, realizing the burden living groups have of throwing parties for the whole campus, quickly pre-game back on East. And there are surely a dozen or so Pegramites being written up.

As the night progresses and swarms of freshmen are herded to the East bus stop by the collective conscience--the freshmen desire to kick it with the big dogs--no doubt Duke Police begin to warm their engines and batons. Upperclassmen slowly start wandering off-campus or to their friend's room to be first in line for Tequila Sunrise or [insert frat name here] punch.

The party hosts bemoan the absence of party guests, namely freshmen, without publicly mentioning their desire for drunken freshmen to arrive. The clock goes tick-tock when suddenly Pink blares, "so you better get this party started" from the commons room and the buses packed with freshmen screech to a halt on West.

Duke police emerge from the bushes. Freshmen stare in amazement as they chug their friends' water bottle. The party starts. Minutes later, the cops snatch their first victim: innocent Molly yelling loudly with no fake ID. The scorecard--Cops: 1, Dukies: 999. Suddenly, Johnny from Pegram throws his red Solo cup at a wall. Cops: 2, Dukies: 998. The game goes on; inevitably, Dukies will win by a huge margin. Everyone crawls into a bed, not forgetting to salute those Dukies who took it for the team and now get to go see some dean.

I do understand the drinking age of this country. I do understand the University's potential liability issues. However, arbitrary enforcement of the alcohol policy does nothing productive for the University. There are hundreds of under-age drinkers every weekend frolicking about the campus. I have no idea how many actually get caught, but I know the police do not generally get more than a couple of points on their scorecard.

The "deterrence" of cops walking around does not decrease binge drinking, does not prevent alcohol poisoning, does not discourage crazy drunken behavior and does not even keep under-age students from drinking in the first place. I'm not even sure these apparently benevolent reasons are why police walk around to begin with.

This weekly routine is just another show the University puts on to appease the public. Every weekend few under-age drunken kids get "chosen" to bear the wrath on everyone else's behalf. It's time for the University to devise a more reasonable and fair method of enforcement, perhaps only targeting drinkers causing harm to themselves or others. The current seemingly arbitrary system of police patrols harms more people than it helps. And until the system is fixed, I again salute those who've taken one for the team.


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