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Alcohol and drugs, where is the leeway?

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The story of a student being cited for underage drinking on private property struck me as patently unfair. Why couldn’t he have been given a warning? If drunk, why not a ride back to his dorm? It seems that today’s police are taught not to give anyone a break; a lawbreaker is a lawbreaker! Sounds a bit conservative to me, or is that compassion I hear? In these tough times I am easily confused.

I am glad I attended college in the 70’s. Today’s students rarely get a break when it comes to drinking or marijuana use. I attended Jacksonville State University, a public college in Alabama. Yes, they had laws against underage drinking and marijuana use. Jacksonville, Alabama had a population of about 8,000 in 1973, the school also hadabout 8,000 students. The students respected most of the laws but were given leeway to be young people and students as long as no one got too rowdy.

Here is a sampling of what was tolerated by the campus, city and state police in 1973 in Alabama.

Marijuana smoking at every on-campus concert was so heavy that it created a permanent blue cloud in a 5,000 seat arena. These were the early Billy Joel concerts, Marshall Tucker, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, Buckingham Nicks and many others. No one dared try to “narc” on someone nor did the authorities intervene.

Streaking became so prevalent that the president of the university, after consulting the psych department, allowed open nakedness for two consecutive days and nights. Ernest “Rocky” Stone, a portly man in his 70s who wore his suspendered trousers barely under chest high, just wanted to let kids be kids. He even had the state police block off the main drive through the campus each evening with instructions to only let vehicles through that had naked people inside. Thousands of people lined the drive and most were either openly drinking or smoking pot. In this case not only did the police not intervene but they assisted in our larceny.

Passing joints at almost every event held on weekends or evenings was not legal by any means but tolerated. The rule was that if the police approached, the joint just kept moving until it disappeared.

We were occasionally stopped by the local Jacksonville police, and if we had any alcohol it was taken away with an admonishment that it was illegal, always followed by a “now drive safely.”

When the city hired a motorcycle policeman to patrol the streets he discovered several stop signs that every student rolled through. Thinking he could win kudos from the chief he proceeded to ticket over 100 students in a week. About 50 of us went to the next city council meeting and the policeman was fired. Democracy in action! They have not hired a motorcycle cop since.

I am still bothered by a student not being given a warning, if not because he is a student and deserves a break then because he was on private property. Good ol’ “Rocky” never would have allowed that at Jacksonville!

Now the lesson here is one of the reasonable man law. It is sometimes reasonable to be drinking a beer in public even if underage. Perhaps this student had been working out and was hot and thirsty; nothing much better to quench thirst than a cold beer. Hey it is a better beverage for you than Coke! And what about the policeman? Poor fellow, he was just not reasonable enough to ask the student if he knew it was unlawful to be drinking. Finding out he was ignorant of the law would have been perfectly reasonable for him to ask the student to pour the beer out. A ticket in this instance? Totally unreasonable! In my day he may have been fired!

From my perspective, it is bothersome that some of the brightest college students in America are allowed to be treated so unfairly on private property. In my day half the students would have vehemently protested. I am sure Middlebury is a great place to be educated, but what message does it send students to be cited for drinking, underage or not, on private property? Can a city policeman stop a student for jay-walking on campus?

Look, Middlebury College states that the education extends beyond the classroom. In this case what educational message is the school allowing to be sent – that it is okay to give up the rights of private property so a student can be cited for drinking? Will the school next decide this is an effective way to cut down on campus drinking and allow the Middlebury Police Department to patrol the hallways of dorms because they happened to be driving by and decided to take a walk in a dorm? What would they do finding a student smoking marijuana or worse, drinking a beer in the privacy of his own room?

Pretty soon the word will get out that Middlebury is a right wing conservative bastion. So then only those “right thinking” students will be attracted to Midd. The result will be students who find it perfectly reasonable for the police to invade private property. Middlebury should decide how it wants to educate the best young minds, freedom or tyranny? As you can see I am quite concerned about this misguided collusion between the College and the city.

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The Student News Site of Middlebury College
Alcohol and drugs, where is the leeway?