Prohibition on campuses doesn’t encourage safe drinking habits

Illustration by Miles Huffman

If students at Sacramento State want to grab a pint of beer with lunch where do they go? To dining services. The Round Table Pizza there has beer on tap.

Most colleges have problems with alcohol. This is not a Chico State phenomenon. Does anyone really think that students at UC Berkeley, Columbia University or the University of Texas at El Paso don’t participate in toxic drinking?

Our Campus Alcohol Policy is about six pages long when copied into a Word document. Buried in the policy is this little gem: “Groups that include a majority of persons under 21 will be reviewed individually, but generally will not be approved” to serve alcohol at an event or fundraiser.

Given that the majority of our students are undergraduates, it is safe to say that the majority of student groups will not be approved to have an event that serves alcohol. This action is the result of fear, almost paranoia, about students and alcohol.

By making our campus effectively a dry one, we have forfeited a campus bar or pub where the intent is not to make profit but to provide a service that could actually look out for student safety.

I attended the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Educational Conference last year at Cal State Channel Islands. A panel from UC Irvine talked about how its campus pub, run by graduate students, began using appropriately sized glasses for various drinks.

The result? There was less toxic drinking and patrons had more fun. Our Campus Alcohol and Drug Education Center focused on the concept of harm reduction — how to drink safely rather than a zero-tolerance perspective.

Chico State faculty members are discouraged from consuming alcohol with students over 21, even off campus.

Who would be better to model responsible drinking behaviors than a respected faculty member when a student wins an award, completes interesting new research or finishes a remarkable symposium presentation? They hit a pub, have two or three drinks, grab some bar grub and debrief the project.

Students who are just beginning to spread their wings are going to drink. The first question is whether that will be a safe and enjoyable experience or a tragic one.

The second question is whether or not we step up as a university and educate students about safe drinking habits.

Joseph Rogers can be reached at [email protected] or @JosephLRogers1 on Twitter.