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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 — Houston, TX

It is time for students to accept slight changes in the alcohol policy

By Anthony Lauriello     11/8/12 6:00pm


How much freedom do we deserve? This may seem like a facile question, but it is the simple question that dominates many of the debates we have been hearing for the last week. The majority of Americans feel that rich Americans should have a little less freedom when it comes to their money so they can help pay for the services that helped them accrue their wealth. Many of them cited this - in other terms of course - as the main reason they re-elected President Barack Obama. This is not to say that conservatives always want more freedom - the citizens of Colorado and Washington feel they deserve the freedom to smoke marijuana, whereas those of Arkansas do not. 

It also has to do with the debates within the hedges about the alcohol policy. The numerous transports at Night of Decadence have once again brought students' drinking to the spotlight, and this time, the Houston Chronicle and other local media outlets are paying attention. For many in the Houston community, Rice's sterling reputation for academics now has a small but not insignificant blemish. When you proudly say you attended Rice at a job interview, will potential employers assume you spent a sizable portion of that time throwing up from alcohol poisoning? Furthermore, what if you are one of those unlucky students who got caught breaking the law, as opposed to the unnoticed majority? Do you think others should be able to make this mistake? If you could go back, would you still want the ability to make the mistake? I ask you again: How much freedom do we deserve? 

If you are like me, you tend to believe the answer should side with more freedom rather than less. You are willing to accept a little bit more risk for the benefit of a more dynamic and liberated society. Furthermore, you distrust many forms of paternalism. Those who make the laws, or the majorities who elect them, are not necessarily better at making choices for you. When possible, we should allow the individual to make the choice. 

However, this is not always possible. One often-cited case for this is in times of war. When the security of our nation is at stake, we must sacrifice a few of our liberties to save them in a long run. President Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War, and those who revealed sensitive information about military operations were and still are prosecuted. 

It is hyperbolic to say the recent controversy about drinking is akin to a war, but it is true that the very culture and ideals of Rice are under threat. If our overconsumption continues to attract outside attention, the administration will have no choice but to end our wet campus policy. If someone gets very sick or dies from alcohol, we will not just have an incredible personal tragedy, but also the end of Beer Bike and NOD. How can the administration promote events if there is a chance students will die? That is not just immoral, but also grounds for a negligence lawsuit. 

This, of course, would be an incredible shame. If alcohol were banned, more students would live off campus, there would be more students driving while intoxicated and we simply would not have the campus culture we love. As Backpage editor, I feel it is one of my duties to defend these inclusive and fun traditions. That is why I signed on to this week's staff editorial advocating a reinstatement of a modified liquor ban where underage students cannot consume hard liquor and students of age will get penalized for providing hard liquor to students underage. This is certainly not going to truly ruin anyone's good time. Rice's drinking traditions were founded when everyone at college was of age and everyone drank beer and wine socially. The idea of chugging liquor is entirely modern. 

However, I support a modified liquor ban with a heavy heart. I have spent much of my time at this university arguing for personal liberty and responsibility, but we have reached the point where the paternalism of our administration is needed. Let us not hide behind illusions of self-government like we did durying the alcohol probation. This is not the colleges and the Student Association creating a solution; it is the administration stepping in because we cannot manage ourselves. 

How much freedom do we deserve? Evidently, less than we have now, and for that, we should all be ashamed. 

Anthony Lauriello is a backpage editor and a Wiess College senior. 

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