Let’s be honest, even before last weekend there were a lot of reasons not to enter Third Edition. Frankly, if I wanted to associate with older men that enjoy pumping drinks into teenage girls I’d become a Jets fan. But lately events at this Georgetown establishment, and at many others like it, have taken a serious turn for the worse. At least 14 of our fellow students can testify to this sad truth.
As reported in The Hoya on Feb. 15, the recent raid at Thirds directly involved members of the Georgetown student body. Similar raids at other bars and neighborhood liqour stores have put students at increased risk of citations or even arrest.
How and why do promising Georgetown students find themselves in these dangerous and patently criminal situations? Or perhaps the better question is: How and why does the university tasked with its students’ education and well-being not realize that in many ways, this social ill is of its own making?
In the last four years there have been a number of university policy changes regarding student life and alcohol. Students used to have very few restrictions when it came to throwing parties on campus; university officials might come break up an event if things got well out of hand, but DPS officers didn’t exactly go out looking for parties to crash. The 2007 Alcohol Policy changed this mentality about on-campus drinking: parties had to be registered, attendance numbers were set and a one keg limit was temporarily imposed
As students began to feel the negative effects of these rules, social life moved off campus to private homes. Yet, due to the establishment and strengthening of the Office of Off-Campus Life, the university has also begun to claim jurisdiction on private residences far outside the gates. Before this year, the Student Code of Conduct had no jurisdiction over parties off campus. But on June 1, 2010, the university adopted a new Repetitive Concerns Policy through the Off-Campus Student Life office. Under this policy, the university reserves the right to put off-campus homes in West Georgetown and Burleith under party restriction, prohibiting the house from hosting future parties with the threat of university punishment. This fall alone there were no less than 31 off-campus residences put on such party restriction.
Truly these are bad policies, but not just for the obvious reason that they inconvenience students and stigmatize something as trivial as drinking. By restricting so much on and off-campus activity, the university is forcing students to turn elsewhere for their common weekend revelry. Local bars could not have written a better policy for increasing their bottom line if they tried.
This evolution creates a whole new set of problems. Kicking students off campus to drink means increased foot traffic through the neighborhood, which in turn increases the amount of noise and litter on Georgetown’s streets, thus worsening already tense town-gown relations.
Furthermore, because students must go to these bars to avoid draconian punishments back on campus, underage students looking to join their friends are forced to obtain false identification. Many students may not know that anyone in Washington, D.C., using a “document which is in any way fraudulent for the purpose of purchasing, possessing or drinking an alcoholic beverage” risks an official citation, a maximum $300 fine and/or suspension of their driver’s license following their first violation of the law. Yet, even with all these risks, I doubt there are many students at Georgetown who have never used or benefited from the use of a fake ID.
Since these new policies were instituted it has become more common for younger students to heavily pre-game in hushed tones in a dorm room, use a fake ID to get into a bar, drink more and then stumble the long road back home through dimly lit streets. According to CapStat, over 90 crimes have been committed within one mile of the front gates just this semester, including three assaults with a deadly weapon and two cases of sexual abuse. No doubt underclassmen drunkenly wandering home from these far away watering holes at late hours are at greatest risk.
At a certain point, administrators need to look at things pragmatically and accept that a vast majority of students are going to engage in drinking. They should also realize that stigmatizing the act on campus is only going to turn students into convicted criminals or the victims of real criminals off-campus. Between the new noise ordinance and police raids, students have never been at such risk of jeopardizing their futures over something as trivial as wanting to get a drink with their friends. If the university wants to give its students a bright future, they must stop forcing us into the shadows.
James Butler is a senior in the School of Foreign Service. He can be reached at [email protected]. THE STREET LAWYER appears every other Friday.