Friday, January 28, 2005

What Harvard Bans

In 2003 when Harvard University dispensed fourteen research assistants to help comedian and liberal radio talk show host Al Franken collect information for his new book attacking conservatives, I thought to myself, "Students at Harvard must have a lot of free time on their hands." This week the Boston Globe validated my theory when it published an article entitled "Harvard Hires 'Fun' Czar to Spice Up Student Life."According to the article, a twenty-three year old Harvard alumnus has been appointed to be "the go-to guy for students who have ideas about social events but don't have the time or knowledge to navigate the school bureaucracy and bring them to fruition." What are his qualifications? The article explains that "as an undergraduate, he helped organize numerous social events and put together a Web site . . . aimed at protecting students' 'right to party.'"There's just one problem. Students at the country's oldest college are clearly not having any trouble exercising this "right." In fact, alcoholism is a huge problem on the Cambridge, Massachusetts campus. The Boston Globe story cites the following disturbing example: "at a party to celebrate the annual Harvard-Yale football game in November, some two dozen fans were taken to hospital and treated for alcohol-related health problems . . ."Also in November, the Yale Daily News reported that "due to rampant underage drinking, Harvard authorities have banned Nalgene bottles on campus for fear they will be filled with alcoholic beverages."In December, in an editorial for The Harvard Crimson, a current Harvard student, referred to her school as the "boozing capital" and proudly declared that "as a sophomore of the legal drinking age of 20, [she] wholly endorse[s] spending as many nights intoxicated . . . as possible."All of this should come as no surprise to university officials. Ironically, in 2001 Harvard's School of Public Health published a report on alcohol use among American college students and reported that 49% of college males and 41% of college females referred to themselves as binge drinkers.Yet instead of taking action and banning alcohol completely from its campus, school authorities are now encouraging more parties and thus making alcohol more accessible to students. Still, the Harvard community is completely comfortable banning some things. Remember the Nalgene bottles? More importantly, since 1969 the school has banned one potential source of order and personal discipline from its campus - the U.S. military. ROTC students (those who have opted for God and country over Bartles and James) are segregated from the rest of the student body and are forced to train at the nearby MIT campus.In the end, it all comes down to values. It's sad when a college like Harvard doesn't do more to help students say no to drugs and alcohol, but I guess that a place that treats Al Franken like a serious academic authority is not too interested in attracting a bunch of tea-totaling teenagers.

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