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Potential alcohol ordinance

A local ordinance that would allow Princeton Borough Police to enter private residences and cite underage drinkers could change campus social life as much as . . . well, Frist. But while the possible ordinance intends to curtail underage drinking, it may create a less visible but more dangerous drinking environment on campus.

The eating clubs, which have always served to contain and control the University's alcohol-related activities may now be subject to police searches and citations. This possible ordinance threatens the civil liberties, not only of Princeton students, but of Princeton residents as well.


Allowing police to enter private residences in search of underage drinking is unlikely to deter local teenagers or underage undergraduates from experimenting with alcohol, and may even exacerbate the problem of underage drinking on campus.

If the ordinance passes, it is probable that Borough Police will target the eating clubs — where most campus drinking occurs — for the purpose of easy enforcement. As a result, underage students might chose to consume alcohol in their dorm rooms instead of at the 'Street,' isolating themselves from the attention and, if need be, the assistance of fellow students. Furthermore, without a significant increase in man power Borough Police and Public Safety may find it difficult, if not impossible, to effectively police dorm-room drinking.

As many freshmen will soon learn, eating clubs serve primarily cheap, watered-down keg beer. But if the Borough adopts the ordinance, hard alcohol — now a rarity on Prospect Avenue — could become the drink of choice in dorm rooms where it may be easily disguised in water bottles and mixed drinks.

Do underage students have a right to alcoholic sanctuary, a place where they can guzzle beer outside the reaches of local authorities? Certainly not. But should the Borough Council permit police officers to routinely invade private residences and fine under-age drinkers $200 for the first offense and $350 for the second? Certainly not.

Curbing underage drinking is a worthwhile effort, for which Gov. Christie Whitman and the Princeton Borough should be commended. But an ordinance that expands police jurisdiction into the eating clubs is not the solution to underage drinking, but rather, a gross infringement on student rights.