Dry Week, in which all students are expected to remain substance-free, is traditionally held during the first week of classes at Harvey Mudd College to allow “for the upperclassmen to meet the incoming first-year class and socialize with them in an environment free from the influences and pressures of alcohol,” according to the president of the Associated Students of Harvey Mudd College. Dry Week ends with the beginning of Wet Season—the party held at 6 p.m. on the first Saturday after classes. Dry Week and the subsequent Wet Season party have come under criticism on two accounts in particular. First, the week-long abstinence encourages binge drinking among students when the ban on substances finally lifts. Second, many claim that some first-years become uncomfortable in the presence of drunken upperclassmen.
The Claremont McKenna College administration, which had long been concerned with the extent of binge drinking during their 6:01 party—similar to the Harvey Mudd Wet Season party — decided to get rid of Dry Week altogether last year, leaving only the orientation period as substance-free. Binge drinking is no doubt dangerous; however, to assume that eliminating Dry Week would eradicate the problem of binge drinking is not very well-grounded. There are several parties during the academic year at which some students participate in binge drinking. Students consume large amounts of alcohol during Alumni Weekend, when returning alumni, with feelings of camaraderie, buy students kegs of beer. Students supposedly drink large amounts of alcohol during the week before Parents’ Weekend. Other nights known for binge drinking include the No Regrets graduation party.
Canceling any party that remotely reeks of binge drinking is not a solution to this problem. Canceling parties would only result in students finding other avenues to carry on drinking. Stricter rules to limit alcohol consumption would encourage students to drink on the sly, in the confines of their room, making their drinking habits all the more unsafe. A college’s alcohol policy is a direct indication of how much a college trusts its students to be responsible, and the ideal way to show trust is to encourage safer drinking habits and ultimately leave alcohol-related decisions to students.
That first-years feel uncomfortable seeing upperclassmen drunk after a week of classes is only natural, but the question is how uncomfortable they really are. Does it shock them enough to scar them for life, or is it just another in a series of college shocks that they must face? First-year shocks could include being overwhelmed enough by homework to have to pull an all-nighter.
Drinking during Wet Season would be a bad influence if students were led to believe that drinking alcohol was the only way to enjoy oneself. However, that is far from the truth, given that Harvey Mudd had about 60 clubs registered this year at the Annual Mudd Club Fair, and only one—the Wine Enthusiasts Club—was related to alcohol consumption.
College is a place to experience and embrace a new way of life and to learn from the diverse student body. The only way to do that is to come out of one’s comfort zone, and the occasional shock is an essential part of that.