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Contested Issues in Student Affairs: Diverse Perspectives and Respectful Dialogue
Peter M. Magolda & Marcia B. Baxter Magolda
The history of alcohol on college campuses is as long as the history of American higher education. As Eric Burns recounts in The Spirits of America: A Social History of Alcohol, Harvard originally built and operated its own brewery that supplied beer for the college’s dining hall.1 The brewery was one of the first buildings at the college, to satisfy early students’ expectations for beer.2 Keep in mind that most students in the early days of Harvard and other colonial American colleges were 14–15 years old, sons of the colonial elite, with many training to be Puritan ministers. The production of the brewery at Harvard could not keep up with demand for alcohol, and students complained they were often deprived of beer between brewings. As a result of this neglect (as well as allegations of beating one of the students), Harvard fired Nathaniel Eaton, the first leader of the institution, after the college’s first year in 1639. Commencement exercises were often rowdy, alcohol-fueled affairs, leading to drunken behavior by town and gown alike. This became such a problem for early colleges that regulations had to be implemented to limit ‘‘the Excesses, Immoralities, and Disorders.’’3 So how far have we come in over 350 years of higher education in the United States? This essay explores some primary issues related to alcohol use and abuse among American college students, and ponders the challenges associated with confronting a deeply entrenched cultural norm.
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Barber, James P., "Navigating the Drinking Culture to Become Productive Citizens" (2011). School of Education Book Chapters. 7.