Reality Check

By Emily Gold / November / December 1999
November 5th, 2007
David C. Lewis '57 remembers the Spring Weekend when his fellow students launched beer cans through a window of the provost's office and dropped a piano from the third floor of a fraternity house. Now an internationally known expert on addiction, Lewis says such property damage, along with other scary and unintended consequences of binge drinking, must be the new focus of drug-and-alcohol policies on campuses nationwide.

Speaking at Opening Convocation on September 7, Lewis, a professor of medicine and community health and director of the campus Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, argued that the war on alcohol and other drugs can be won only after administrators and parents first acknowledge that some students will drink and will use drugs. The focus should then be on preventing such harmful consequencesas property damage, violence, and sexual misconduct.

"While many wish to have a drug-free society and drug-free campuses, this wish is not the current reality," he told the class of 2003 after it had passed through the Van Wickle gates and settled onto plastic garbage bags set down on the Green to protect against the damp grass.

"The prohibition of use, which many schools are contemplating, may drive drinking and drug use off campus but may not create a safer or more healthful environment for students or the surrounding community." Lewis went so far as to call zero-tolerance drug-and-alcohol policies well-meaning but "dumbfounding." Accept responsibility for your behavior, he advised: "This is your brain at Brown. Take care of it."

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Related Issue
November / December 1999