Letter to the Editor: The Irrelevance of Prohibition

For those who are not aware, EMU recently changed its policy regarding substance use on campus, which now includes a week of suspension in addition to the pre-existing multi-hundred dollar fines for individuals providing space or substances for misuse. Notable is that EMU’s definition of “misuse” includes any “intoxication” or “rowdiness,” be it on or off campus. With the university’s prohibitive stance gaining increasingly punitive means to combat substance use by its students, it is time to bring this issue to discussion.

Let me first make clear that I in no way intend to encourage substance use by EMU students. I have witnessed firsthand the destructiveness of alcohol abuse. I grew up in a family that, despite its prohibitive stance, still had struggles with alcoholism. It is that experience that drives me to argue that prohibition is ineffective. Total restriction fails to engage the issue with any authenticity; instead, it uses punitive action to violently avoid it. In this way, prohibition does not discourage substance use; it discourages learning of healthy substance use. It perpetuates a space that neglects substance education just as much as a policy of apathetic endorsement.

Let me therefore administer a dose of reality into this discussion. As it is the main substance of issue in EMU policy, I will focus on alcohol.

The popularity of alcohol is inherently tied to its ability to inebriate. This is what gives it its cultural edge as a choice beverage over, say, lemonade. The inclusion of “intoxication” in the Student Handbook’s definition of “misuse” displays a clear disconnect from reality.

Intoxication is the use of alcohol. This is because intoxication is fun. It pushes away the worries of the day, lightens the mood of a social context, and, for better or worse, reduces inhibitions. Due to its effects, people are going to use alcohol. I would be suspicious to hear that you are unaware of this, as this information is available to both those who drink and those who abstain, underage or legal.

It is my experience that people learn better when they feel they are being given the complete picture. As long as EMU’s policy remains detached from this information, it will remain decidedly irrelevant. That is bad news; the warnings it gives are important. Alcohol is a risky substance. It impairs motor skills and judgment and poisons the body.

Though some parties rock the block, some go terribly wrong. It is for this reason that EMU cannot continue to ignore the real culture of alcohol. Now this is difficult; an increase in punitive actions is a step in the wrong direction, especially for an institution holding to Anabaptist value. But as the majority of the student body is under-age, it is difficult to determine what an effective campus policy would be. For this reason, it is important that students converse with each other and with the administration about what vision we share for this campus concerning such a complex issue.

-Aaron Wile is a sophomore psychology major. 


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