Reducing Massachusetts Liquor Liability Injuries: When Will Colleges Here Ban Hard Liquor on Campus?

If you’ve ever seen the movie Animal House you know the havoc that is wreaked from too much drinking, and the hazing that tragically still goes today on at many college fraternities around the United States.

It’s always been pretty much acknowledged, at least tacitly, that this movie was based on the drinking culture that has for many years been reported at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, one of the world’s preeminent Ivy League colleges. Perhaps you’ve heard the nickname for Dartmouth’s location? No, not Hanover, but Hangover, New Hampshire.

We’ll all that reported alcohol abuse may be at least slowing down, as Dartmouth College this past Thursday announced that it will ban hard liquor on campus. It will also forbid pledging at Greek sororities and fraternities – an event that usually entails binge drinking – and the college will require all students to undergo a special four-year program designed to prevent sexual violence.

As a Boston, Mass. liquor liability lawyer, I applaud Dartmouth College for taking the lead to curb drinking on its campus. Dartmouth is to be admired for its stance and having the courage to speak out and make sure that their school does not further tolerate excessive drinking on campus. The plan is called “Moving Dartmouth Forward,” and is designed to reduce dangerous behavior on campus.

I’m a Boston personal injury attorney, and I have seen firsthand the problems and tragedies that result when people drink too much. The script is usually all too familiar: Before you know it they get behind the wheel of a car and injure someone else – or kill them. Or their behavior gets out of hand – and they commit a sexual assault – or become the victim of a sexual assault. Or they simply wind up doing stupid things – like jumping off a roof – and permanently injure themselves by suffering a spinal-cord injury. The list goes on and on, and I’m glad that Dartmouth is enforcing a zero-tolerance policy on this issue. Though it should be noted that altruism is not likely the sole motivator behind this toughened campus policy: Liquor liability laws can hold colleges and fraternities liable for injuries caused to persons by students who become intoxicated on campus, and resultantly injure innocent persons. When a person becomes intoxicated at someone’s home and later injures a third party because of that intoxication, a similar liability can attach to the person who hosted the gathering where the alcohol was served. The law that applies in that type of circumstance is called social host liability.

Dartmouth’s restrictions start at the end of this March 2015, and ban the possession or alcohol consumption of alcohol that is 30 proof or stronger than that. The Ivy League college will also create what they call a “consent manual,” which is meant to specifically outline what is acceptable – and not acceptable – in terms of sexual behavior, to reduce all “ambiguity.” Not that I think “ambiguity” is a problem when it comes to sexual assaults.

Other colleges that ban hard liquor on campus include Colby, Bowdoin, and Providence colleges.
I hope that Massachusetts colleges will soon follow suit.