06 April 2004

Bestiality at Princeton

The latest
is up.

A former eating club officer (who asked that I identify him only as
such) came up with a rather subtle critique:

The “beasts”, who you advance as the unsafe drinkers at
Princeton, seem to be to be a fairly unconvincing straw man to
someonef who has held an officer’s post at one of the clubs. They
seem, from your description, to be unequivocally male, and aggressive
males at that (and even, with a little reading between the lines, it
seems they are probably members of fraternities or sports teams).
They also seem to be approaching their “animalistic” drinking with at
least some knowledge of the consequences, and doing so on a regular
basis. I must admit that in my experience, I have dealt with such
“beasts” to some extent. But I would argue (purely based on personal
anecdotal evidence, but I’m not sure that’s avoidable) that these
“beasts” are NOT the people likely to force this debate to a crisis
by dying of alcohol poisoning. These people generally have a fairly
large support-network of more-or-less similarly minded beasts who
have been through this before and have some knowledge of what to do.
They also, by repetition alone, are fairly likely to realize at least
an approximation of their own limits (perhaps through being McCoshed
or PMC’ed) and are less likely to repeat the stunt (If for no other
reason to avoid serious disciplinary measures). Of course these
beasts are problematic and possibly at least low grade threats to
themselves and others, but I don’t think they should be the focus of
a dialogue with the goal of preventing a death due to alcohol
poisoning (nor, in my experience, are they only athletes or
frat-boys, but that’s another matter). This is not to say that they
shouldn’t be the focus of dialogue (they should).

I must admit that I didn’t consider the distinction between people who
are likely to drink themselves to death and people who vandalize and
befoul the campus. Intuitively, they are disjoint sets. However, even
if I tarred two different groups with the same brush, it does not
follow that only one group should be the focus of attention: both
ought to be.

(I should also note that I wasn’t thinking specifically of men, or
even of fratboys and athletes when I wrote the article — I can think
of many anecdotes of non-men, non-fratboys, and non-athletes getting
drunk to the point where excreting in the wrong place seems like a
good idea.)

If you’re at all interested, I can go into detail about
the demographic which I feel is most likely to die of alcohol
poisoning, but I’ve spent enough time on this for now. I’ll just
leave you with a parting note that I really wish someone would inject
into this debate: When I was first a club officer, I felt that I could
call the proctors to take care of a dangerously intoxicated student
with impunity, and this was borne out by experience. By the end of my
term, the precedent had been set that calling the proctors for a
dangerously intoxicated student could result in charges being brought
against the club officers. This creates a serious dilemma for club
officers who are attempting to deal with a borderline student.
Especially because in most cases said borderline student has a group
of friends who are arguing that they will take him/her home and take
care of him/her. And also because Princeton students don’t react well
to the idea of having these charges on their record. If someone dies
of alcohol poisoning in an eating club, this entirely new dilemma will
most likely be a strong contributing factor.

This is regrettable. I’ve heard that the University’s policy was not
to charge students if they called the proctors for a fellow student
whose life was in danger from overindulgence. But that certainly
doesn’t stop the Borough Police from hounding the intoxicated party
for details when he or she gets to PMC. I’m also hesitant to say that
they shouldn’t press the student for details —- although
professionalism dictates that they ought to, at the very least, wait
until the student has sobered up a bit before interrogating them.

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