A recent editorial posited several pointed conclusions regarding the drinking culture at NDSU and related University policies and dispositions therein. The central argument asserts NDSU’s dry campus policy facilitates dangerous drinking habits among its students and even suggests NDSU administration is aware of these problems, but rather than confronting them, is opting to turn the other way. As problematic as this claim is, we appreciate the opportunity to address these misconceptions.
First, it’s worth establishing that the dry campus policy isn’t exclusive to NDSU. The statewide policy (918) applies to all University System institutions in North Dakota. Even if NDSU was a wet campus, it would be irrelevant for students who are under 21 (representing 78% of all those living on campus), as it would still be illegal for them to consume alcohol under the ND Century Code.
Despite policies and efforts meant to curb excessive alcohol consumption, rates of high-risk alcohol use are a concern for college-aged (i.e. 18 – 25 y.) young adults. Though slightly above national averages, alcohol use at NDSU reflects national trends. However, instead of ignoring the high rates of use, NDSU’s President’s Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs (PCAOD) is facing them head on. Rather than demonizing alcohol, the PCAOD has adopted a harm reduction strategy with an environmental management focus. The editorial also raised an important “what-if” question.
The hypothetical situation involving underage drinkers casts doubt on what support would exist for a minor who had been sexually assaulted at a house party or related scenario. Reporting on a sexual assault takes precedence over legal repercussions for consuming alcohol as a minor. Kelsey Keimig, NDSU’s Assistant Director of Sexual Assault Prevention and Advocacy, gives further insight on this matter. She states, “There are a number of reasons people choose not to report a sexual assault. Alcohol is weaponized by perpetrators in part because victims are less likely to be believed if they have been consuming, whether they are of age or not. This is a part of our larger rape culture and is not limited to dry campuses. At NDSU, we support victims and survivors of sexual assault, regardless of their age or consumption of alcohol.”
Moreover, the North Dakota Medical Amnesty Law should ease any hesitation to seek help in cases of medical emergency involving alcohol consumption. This law provides immunity from criminal prosecution for up to five underage individuals who have been drinking if they have provided assistance and sought aid for the person in need of help.
While this Spectrum article highlights important issues, NDSU isn’t quietly sitting by, discounting that some students are choosing to consume alcohol. The mission statements of NDSU and the PCAOD, and comprehensive prevention efforts indicate otherwise. We encourage readers to explore these topics further and keep the conversation moving. For additional information on the subject check out our website.
Student Community Organizer, Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention Programs