It’s difficult to complain about the variety of Georgetown’s course selection. The university has offered a fair share of oddball classes over the years, including Witches and Witchcraft, Knights of Old & Harry Potter and Sexing the Past, among many others.

But Georgetown does lack one popular course that Ivy Leaguers in Ithaca, N.Y., enjoy every semester. It’s called Introduction to Wines, and it’s offered to all undergraduates by Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. Enrolled students – over 700 each term – taste and learn about wines from around the world. In the past, wine tasting courses have been offered for credit at the University of California, Berkeley and as part of a “senior minicourse” series at Princeton University.

We admit that the average Georgetown student doesn’t need a class to learn how to drink, but we nevertheless urge the university to create a wine tasting course similar to Cornell’s. Such a class could teach students how to approach wine in restaurants and retail stores, how to pair wines with particular meals and how to shop for wine intelligently. It would almost certainly attract a large number of students, and would likely promote further interest in cultural studies. The university prides itself on educating the “whole person” – doesn’t that include taste buds?

Cautious administrators want to encourage students to drink responsibly and to behave appropriately. A fun, interactive wine-tasting course could promote both objectives far more effectively than the tedious, out-of-touch AlcoholEdu.

The logistics of this idea aren’t particularly daunting. A wine-tasting class would fit naturally into the College or even into the School of Foreign Service as a one-credit pass/fail elective. Costs would be manageable if students were charged a small lab fee, as they are in many science courses. The drinking-age problem could be avoided by restricting enrollment to students of suitable age – though Georgetown could try to acquire a special dispensation from D.C. authorities for younger students.

Some will dismiss this plan as another attempt to justify or even embolden student drinking. This misses the point. We support responsible student drinking, but that means educating students on the benefits and hazards of alcohol effectively. AlcoholEdu may supply accurate information, but most students view it as a burden, not as an opportunity to learn. Non-stop bickering between students and administrators over the university alcohol policy does little to educate students. It only encourages them to rebel against a patriarchal authority.

The creation of a wine tasting course next fall could help to address this problem. It would reconcile two rarely harmonious interests: students’ thirst for fun, stimulating classes and the university’s need to exercise control over drinking on campus. Georgetown should follow Cornell’s lead and offer a wine-tasting course while the time is ripe.

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