Alcohol Policy Controversy, Circa 1992
As I flipped through old editions of The Forum this week, I noticed some common themes: liberal bashing, conservative bashing, and our alcohol policy. Some issues applauded crazy parties thrown by Berger or Green, while others lamented the loss of hard alcohol or other lenient policies. The September 18, 1992 edition of The Forum proved no different, as two staff writers, Brian Schoolman and Holly Vicente, debated new alcohol policies at the Claremont Colleges. Following a number of alcohol-related incidents, including, most shockingly, a stabbing at a Harvey Mudd party by someone unrelated to the 5Cs, Claremont McKenna had to take a harder stance on alcohol. In light of the events, keg registration and carding became mandatory and 5-C parties were outlawed.
Brian Schoolman argues that these restrictions are necessary, highlighting the negative consequences of drinking. He compares a party scene to “that of a hurricane” with “debris scattered everywhere”—a metaphor that calls to mind Claremont Hall post-Disney Party, to be sure. The writer complains that every weekend drunken students cause damages to the school. He did not want us to become like the University of Massachusetts, nicknamed “Hangover U” because of the number of drunken students sent to the emergency room. He also points to tragic incidents such as a student at Clemson who mistook her seventh-story window for an exit. Brian also argues that drinking may lead to drops in grades and—this may come as a shock—alcoholism. He closes his argument by claiming that “social events have and will continue to occur without the presence of alcohol.”
Holly Vicente, in true esprit de CMC, argues that we should party on and party harder. She laments the loss of parties with hard liquor flowing freely and kegs galore. During this period, parties were often ticketed events. Vicente explains that just one 5-C party “could raise enough revenue to buy a big screen television or a stereo for the dorm.” She complains about the “beer and wine only” rule and she worries that campus security will begin to actually enforce the rules. Vincent also argues that it is unfair to classify all students who drink as alcoholics or belligerent, as the Deans began doing in their efforts to “educate” the student body on drinking. As the former ASCMC President told her, CMC was and is not “a Republican golf course, made to be always kept neat and beautiful” but “college…[where] people want to get funky.” After the awkward ‘90s slang, Holly insinuates further dangers of limiting our alcohol policy by instructing students to “PRAY HARD, that thou makest it home safely from the bar this weekend.”
This article shows that CMC of the 1990s resembled today’s CMC. Vicente’s argument demonstrates that we’ve always loved our free-flowing kegs, whereas Schoolman proves that, even before Stark Hall was built, Starkies were a presence. More importantly though, drinking and social culture at CMC are dynamic. The deans are constantly updating our drinking policy - 5C parties eventually made a comeback. Parties now rarely require payment unless they are for a musical artist like Glitch Mob. Student fees, of course, are tacked onto tuition and serve as a payment not just for parties but general events and services. How to judge changes to our social community is a difficult task, as Vicente and Schoolman prove. CMC and its social rituals will continue to evolve while still holding on to some sense of tradition, as dynamic as it may be.