Last week, Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson lifted the years-old ban on having multiple kegs in University-owned housing. While Olson’s move is the most recent in the first few steps to finally making the Hilltop the central hub for campus life, the University still has several steps to take in order to restore trust between students and administrators.
Restrictions on the number of kegs students in University housing may purchase have been in place since May 2007. That rule, along with other measures ratcheting up the strictness of the on-campus alcohol policy, only served to push partying off-campus, much to the ire of the neighbors.
Until recently, the University’s attitude toward campus life didn’t reflect the reality of college. In spite of what University administrators might believe, campus social life is by far not limited to student group activities and programming. While students clearly enjoy going to events such as the spring concert and joining different on-campus organizations, they also enjoy other activities such as Georgetown Day, a day that most students find as an excuse to indulge in their drinking habits all day long. While it’s true that many students drink to excess, the drinking culture is inevitably ingrained in the college experience.
From about 2007 to 2011, the University’s response to neighbors’ concerns was to quash parties however it could, leading to measures which actually encouraged students to take their parties off campus instead. Before the University changed its attitude this year, students faced a policy that forced them to register their on-campus parties before Friday with Residence Life. Doing so was the only way that they could acquire some semblance of legitimacy for their gatherings, although Department of Public Safety officers would sometimes break up registered campus parties anyway.
During this period, students faced far fewer obstacles for throwing off-campus parties. In off-campus houses, students could hold keggers outside, in the bright sunlight, something that students in campus housing are still unable to do.
While lifting the keg limit and abolishing on-campus party registration are good initial steps, students have to first trust the administration in order for them to achieve making campus the center for social life. Students need to know their RAs and DPS won’t bust up parties unless they’re unsafe; they need to know they won’t face sanctions for hanging out with their friends in the universally-accepted undergraduate fashion.
In both party-hosting sessions and semi-regular floor meetings, RAs don’t deviate from the official University line when it comes to hosting parties. At “I know how to party” sessions, hall directors merely list off unrealistic expectations, such as asking students to card everyone who comes into their party and asking students to cap attendance at artificially low levels. Students would benefit if RAs showed more candor. They need to know what the de facto enforcement policy will be so they can feel safe hosting parties on campus.
Many other aspects of on-campus life are already fairly strong. The University has additionally shown a renewed commitment to improving on-campus programming, especially late at night. This effort is portrayed in the recent cooperation between GUSA and the University to extend the operating hours of Epicurean, which will now remain open 24/7 during study days and until 2am during the summer. While the food trucks were a good idea in the campus plan agreement, Epicurean will certainly be more effective in discouraging drunken students from roaming the neighborhood in search of late-night food.
So while administrators pay ample lip service to “making campus the hub for student life,” students need to commit to holding them to their promises, which they have done so far. GUSA President Nate Tisa’s (SFS ’14) next stated goal is to get the University to loosen restrictions on partying outdoors, which can only improve on-campus social life further.
Undergraduate social life will always involve drinking, and the University has finally begun to recognize that boozy reality.
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Editor’s note: This column originally stated that Todd Olson completely banned kegs in 2007. He, in fact, limited kegs to one per event, which the column has been updated to reflect.