The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday September 29th

Drinking Policy Murky, Ignores Real Problems

Finally out from under the watchful eye of mom and dad, UNC freshmen have embraced the promise of UNC, where Purple Jesus is born in multigallon trash cans and the wine flows like, well, wine.

Many learn the fast lesson that even though parental discipline is miles away, the University police are right around the corner to pick up where the precious 'rents left off. Those meant to serve and protect you now take the form of demons who deny and destroy your beer.

Two students early last week got pinched. Word on the street was that freshmen Jacki "Schlitz" Fritz and Michael "Duff" Dorfman attended a party in a Hinton James Residence Hall room. And yes, there was alcohol present, and no, Fritz and Dorfman didn't touch a drop. Nevertheless, the 5-0 slapped them both with citations.

The two freshmen are calling UNC's alcohol policy unfair and the guidelines murky.

And I have to second that emotion.

Item one is that if you haven't been drinking and the beer ain't yours, you shouldn't get in trouble. Fritz asked to take a breathalyzer, and the officer refused. New rules should allow students to prove their innocence and get off the hook.

Higher-ups have certainly not let these youngsters know that UNC's alcohol policy means they can't be in the same room with beer if they're underage, even if they've been chugging Sprite like it's going out of style.

Nay, officials need to clear up these misconceptions so students can figure out how to beat the system or stay out of hot water.

UNC administrators have always had a tough time figuring out how to handle the inevitable drinking that takes place on campus.

Buzzwords like "binge drinking" have been shoved in our faces. Honchos have told us they know we'll drink but don't condone it -- and they'll bust our asses if they catch us. Fingers have been pointed at the Greek community and the " big sports" emphasis at UNC. They will tell you all these factors have been eroding the intellectual climate.

Maybe they're right. But University bigwigs have been handling UNC's alcohol situation all wrong.

The events that shaped UNC's attack on alcohol unfolded in the early morning hours of Mother's Day 1996, when a fire ripped through the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house, killing five students.

Four of the five students killed had blood alcohol levels higher than .08, North Carolina's legal limit. Some people have contended that if they had been sober, they might have escaped the blaze.

In the wake of the tragedy and the years following it, UNC unleashed a slew of anti-drinking campaigns. First they told students "Don't Get Wasted." More recently, it's been the delightful news that "2 out of 3 blow a .00 BAC."

The result of such nonsense, which ignores the notion that students formed their opinions about drinking long before enrolling at UNC, has been the confusing slogan, "Don't Drink and Drink Responsibly."

The Department of Public Safety has been in cahoots with such anti-drinking efforts, and the men in blue have been part of the crackdown. Sadly, nondrinkers like Fritz and Dorfman have been caught in the melee.

Too bad they aren't the ones the University should be worrying about.

I'm not asking UNC to condone underage drinking, but I am asking them to prioritize. If University police and administrators want to really target the harmful effects of alcohol, they should crack down on the 21-year-olds trying to drive their drunk asses home, not on the 18-year-olds nursing their Beasts. Much more harm can be done behind the wheel than on the fourth floor of Morrison Residence Hall.

To Fritz and Dorfman, my deepest regrets. If I see either one of you kids, I'll look both ways -- then buy you a beer.

Columnist Ashley Stephenson can be reached at ashley21@email.unc.edu.

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