Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Prohibition doesn't work, E-Town Prez tells Rotary

Prohibition doesn't work.

That's the message Elizabethtown College President Dr. Theodore "Ted" Long had for the Rotary Club of Lancaster on Wednesday afternoon with regard to drinking on college campuses.

Long called instead for what he considers a more realistic and comprehensive approach - one that relies heavily on education and carrots and sticks as opposed to a monolithic abstinence-only policy.

"We all - public officials, educators, families ... have a common interest. And that is promoting responsible behavior," he said.

"The facts on the ground are that students look for ways to get engaged in alcohol behavior. They always find a way."

"We have to define achievable outcomes," Long continued. "Is it an achievable outcome to keep everybody from drinking?"

His answer is no. "They do it in secrecy to avoid detection. It goes underground or off-campus," he said.

When educators become involved in law-enforcement only, it actually solidifies student opposition to those school officials, Long argued.

He went on to say that the law's emphasis on eligibility to drink improperly ignores the manner of use and focuses students' attention merely on whether they will be able to obtain alcohol.

And often when they do obtain it, "they binge drink, they overdo it," he said. "We encounter students in life-threatening situations, not before then."

Long said that he was not necessarily advocating for any specific policy, but mainly trying to start a social conversation about the topic.

He proposes that colleges enact levels of privilege and responsibility, with an aim toward monitoring and regulating alcohol's use rather than having a flat prohibition.

He explained that he does not advocate breaking the law, but thinks that there are more realistic and sympathetic ways of discouraging unhealthy behavior, which is the real objective.

Dr. Ted Long became the 13th President of Elizabethtown College on September 1, 1996. He holds a Ph.D in Sociology from the University of Virginia and has attended the Institute for Educational Management at Harvard University.