Not too long ago, a friend of mine asked me, “If Claremont McKenna College is supposed to be the happiest college in the United States, why does it have to put so much effort into making its students happy? Why does the school have Jim Nauls, the inhumanly generous Assistant Dean of Students, who’s been known to offer students money to fund almost anything this side of the law? Why do we at Claremont McKenna have television sets and gaming systems offered in our lounges, and job offers in which recruiters come looking for you even though you’ve got absolutely no experience?” To this, I could only answer that Claremont McKenna provides these amenities to make up for the miserable substance-free Dry Week at the beginning of each school year.
Here’s the rub: Dry Week is a pain for students both wet and dry–those who drink and those who don’t. A wet student might well ask what the point of Dry Week is. Is it to help first-years “get to know one another,” as one of my Wilderness Orientation Adventure leaders put it? There’s no reason to believe that your average first-year is any less capable of socializing drunk than sober. Alcohol is a classic social lubricant. The first-years who are too soused to socialize wouldn’t have developed a social circle in a week alone. Besides, it’s not as if the sober students are going to remember the name, major and room number of anyone they meet for the first few weeks. If obeying federal law is the issue, why go through the farce of obeying the law for just one week? What are the alternatives – regulate drinking? The school already does, at least officially.
On the dry side of things, it can be rather uncomfortable for the more sensitive dry students, including me, to effectively have our faces shoved into the party culture at Claremont McKenna when Dry Week ends and the parties suddenly become more loud and excessive. This shouldn’t be the case. One thing about this school I’ve come to love is that in spite of the intimidating burliness of our football players and the loud music from our stereos, we’re a school of friendly intellectuals. On the rare occasions when students here drink heavily enough to become intrusive, it’s because they’re celebrating something: a football game, Thursday Night Club, or the end of Dry Week. It’s also arguable that allowing students to start drinking right off the bat will take the edge off some of their celebrations later. For me-–and other non-drinkers–-abandoning Dry Week entirely would mean one less night of celebratory heavy drinking, and one more night without having to step over an unconscious student as I go back to my dorm.
Eliminating Dry Week should please everyone, and it will harm nobody. It will perhaps make the dry minority a bit happier, it will almost certainly make the wet majority much happier and it will not upset the administration, who have kindly turned a blind eye to their students’ habits for some 66 years. Finally-–and this is the most important factor-–-it’ll be safer for me. Calling for any meaningful restrictions on the End of Dry Week celebrations will make me Claremont McKenna’s Public Enemy Number 1, whereas if Dry Week is banned on my suggestion hundreds of students from here to Scripps will be turning up at my doorstep bearing flowers. The world needs intelligent men with intact skeletons.