Point/Counterpoint: Is the University’s drinking ban during Orientation Week effective?

Two students present opposing arguments to whether or not the University's Orientation drinking policy is realistic

Can University policy combat student drinking habits?
Credit: 
Journal file photo

YES: Alex Green, Contributor

Orientation Week is a time to introduce new students to the university, but inclusion shouldn’t depend on whether or not you’re willing to do a keg-stand.
 
The residence ban on drinking during Orientation Week allows students coming from a variety of backgrounds to be welcomed to the school without the expectation of drinking.
 
Students’ first week plays a vital role in making friends and connections within their faculty, learning about Queen’s longstanding and rich traditions and school spirit. Let that be its focus rather than drinking.
 
Don’t get me wrong, if done responsibly, students have every right to drink and can have safe fun while doing so for every other week in the school year.
 
However, in the case of large events, drinking adds an array of avoidable complications such as street parties, property damage or hospitalized students. The expectation is that Orientation events are safe for new and impressionable students. 
 
Upper year students can make the choice to welcome incoming classes without alcohol out of respect to the school and Orientation Week’s purpose of being a safe first impression. But, without a drinking policy, new students may feel that Queen’s is one big block party they can’t keep up with.
 
By banning drinking, not only is there less social pressure on students, but the school takes a clear stance on drinking during school-run events — a problem that has been of legitimate concern throughout 
Queen’s history.
 
Take the cancellation of Homecoming less than 10 years ago for example. Queen’s less-than-perfect drinking reputation was only increased by students who, despite the expectation of restraint, failed to act responsibly. 
 
Given its history, the University needs to take a reasonable stance on alcohol use during Orientation. They can’t reasonably condone drinking for incoming students, many of whom are underage.
 
While students of age have the right to drink throughout the year, Orientation Week is not the time nor place for unsafe behaviour. 
 
It’s a time for your first Oil Thigh or grease pole climb, not your first trip to KGH.
 
Alex is a third-year Political Studies major. 

NO: Nick Pearce, Staff Writer

The University needs to understand that preventing drinking in residence is a fantasy but creating a healthier culture doesn’t have to be.

Though it makes the class of 2020’s first taste of Queen’s drier than expected, the Orientation Week drinking ban is still about as effective as a non-alcoholic beer.

The ban has good intentions. After two tragic, alcohol-related deaths of first-year students in 2010, a review of Queen’s drinking policy was in order.

But five years after the ban’s introduction, the drinking culture has hardly subsided. 

Underage drinking still continues in Orientation Week and beyond, but instead of stopping drinking in residence, the ban prompts students to be more secretive and possibly farther away from helpful resources on campus.

University administration simply mistakes the slightly more discrete culture for a successful eradication of it.

There are other options. Providing dry events is a strong first step for students looking to avoid alcohol consumption. Likewise, promoting healthy drinking habits is a necessary campaign for students who do drink.

Instead of just treating our drinking culture’s symptoms, we can address the circumstances behind binge drinking with the proper resources available outside of Orientation Week.  

According to its alcohol policy, Queen’s “supports a healthy environment and promotes healthy decisions related to alcohol use.” If these words are to become a reality, the drinking policy needs to look for ways to make it more realistic.

Patronizing policies won’t help first-year students mature, nor will it build responsible habits. Educating students, fostering discussion and providing mental health resources will have more impact than pouring beer down a residence sink.

On the surface, the ban may protect the University’s reputation by turning a blind eye to drinking during Orientation Week, but it does little to improve the underlying culture. 

Until when the drinking policy gets straightened out, underage first years will just get better at hiding their liquor.

Nick is a third-year Global Development studies major. 

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