For years now, school administrators have branded FSU a “dry campus.” Framingham State students, they have told state agencies, parents and collegeready high schoolers, live and study in an environment that is alcohol-free. This policy has helped to ensure that we can focus on our schoolwork and avoid the dangers associated with drinking too much, or drinking underage, they have said. Being a dry campus has made us safer, they have said.
This is Framingham State’s Big Lie – one told over and over again, even as the tragic death of student Ashley Donahue in an accident allegedly caused by a drunk driver and startling evidence to the contrary indicate the opposite. Because of the Big Lie, there is not a safe place to drink on campus. Many students feel less likely to get in trouble if they drink off of school grounds, and thus eventually have to drive back to their dorms, sometimes under the influence. According to The Gatepost survey featured in this issue, one in four of us have done just that. More than half of us have accepted a ride from someone else who has.
It is common knowledge across campus that Framingham State students drink alcohol, be it in their dorm rooms, at nearby bars or at their friends’ apartments and houses. Anyone who looks closely enough at FSU campus life knows that the school’s Big Lie does not accurately represent reality. According to Framingham State policy, of age students are not allowed to drink on campus, but they do. According to the policy, of age students are not even allowed to come back to their residence halls with alcohol in their systems, but, as long as students aren’t obviously, dangerously drunk, student desk attendants are constantly looking the other way. Framingham State students are drinking, just like their “wet campus” peers. And everyone knows it.
The Big Lie is a deliberate denial of reality – one designed to benefit the school, not its students. Administrators, presumably, perpetuate the Lie to boost the university’s reputation for offering a safer, less distracting environment than other institutions across the state. But wouldn’t a reputation for being responsible, for putting student safety above all else and for taking proactive measures to curb driving under the influence, be a better reputation to have than one based on a Big Lie? In the eyes of administrators, is being “dry” more important than being safe?
The Gatepost’s recommendations for possible programs to help promote safe alcohol use are not new. Nor are they without precedent and working models elsewhere. Framingham State needs a “no questions asked” transportation service, which would offer students a safe ride home if they have had too much to drink, or if their drivers have. It needs a 21-plus dorm, similar to those at nearly every other public university in the state, where of age students can consume alcohol responsibly without running the risk of being booted off campus. It would benefit greatly by having an oncampus pub – like the one at UMass Dartmouth, or like the now-defunct McCarthy’s, which shut its doors on the FSU campus a few years ago – where students could meet up without having to arrange for a ride to or from, and where those with little experience drinking alcohol could learn to do so responsibly in a safe environment.
But as long as administrators insist on maintaining the “dry campus” policy – as long as they insist on maintaining Framingham State’s Big Lie – we will never have any of those things. FSU students overwhelmingly do not support the “dry campus” policy, and a majority are ignoring it, anyway. FSU’s motto, the one emblazoned everywhere, is “Live to the Truth.” For the sake of students’ safety, it is time administrators start following it, and admit that the status quo is not working.