Long-shot bill would dry Mass. state campuses

BOSTON (U-WIRE) – Looking to curb what he identifies as safety issues related to growing alcohol abuse by college students, a Massachusetts lawmaker has introduced a bill into the State House that would ban alcohol – even for students over 21 – at all state colleges and universities, although he said the bill is unlikely to pass.

Rep. Frank Hynes (D-Marshfield), who proposed a similar measure that failed in 2001, said student drinking has become even more prevalent since he first filed the bill. Hynes identified binge drinking as a worsening trend and said alcohol-related incidents, including students’ deaths and the rape and abuse of female students, prompted him to file the bill.

“Drinking is no longer confined to weekends,” he said in an email. “Weekends are now beginning on Wednesday nights.”

The bill, expected to draw fire from college students, has also been questioned by state college officials.

Hynes said some college officials have argued alcohol should not be banned because students must learn how to handle the newfound freedom that comes with the college experience.

“Such destructive behavior should not be tolerated under any circumstance,” he said. “Most college undergrads are under 21 and are thus violating the law if they choose to drink.”

Peter Chisholm, director of External Affairs at Framingham State College, said although the university’s administration has not considered the proposal, he was sure such a bill would affect the climate on university campuses.

“I think the goal can be achieved administratively,” he said, “but in light of actions that have taken place on some campuses, I can understand why (Hynes) filed the legislation.”

Chisolm said he expected students – especially those over 21 – would also oppose the bill.

David Ostroth, vice president of Student Affairs at Bridgewater State College, said implementing a law to curb underage drinking would not be any more effective than existing university policies.

“Some students who would violate the (school) policy would violate the law as well,” he said.

Representatives from several other state colleges would not comment on the bill because they were not familiar with its specifics.

Hynes said the proposal has not met much support in the House.

“The legislative committee that votes on this bill has not viewed it as one that sparks their interest,” he said. “It’s probably going to go nowhere.”