Why dry, AU? Analyzing Augustana’s booze rules
As the last week of classes draws to a close and finals loom, Augustana students see the weekend as a chance to indulge in a brief moment of relaxation.
This might include a stop at midnight breakfast and bingo during the annual Semester Shutdown on Saturday, a slice (or three) of pizza at Midnight Madness on Sunday or kicking back with a few friends (and a few drinks) somewhere on campus.
It’s that on-campus element that causes an issue.
The university’s alcohol policy as published in the student handbook, reads, “The possession and use of alcoholic beverages on campus and at Augustana-sponsored functions is prohibited, except in designated campus houses and apartments when students are 21 years of age or older.”
According to Dean of Students Jim Bies, roughly 82 percent of undergraduates living on campus are underage. The legal issues tied to alcohol consumption and that age group are the primary reason for the policy.
“It’s just more practical,” said Corey Kopp, director of Campus Life. “Dry campuses typically have less alcohol on them. As a result, that reduces distraction, potential harm and maybe makes it a little less accessible to underage students.”
But some students find the policy problematic.
“I don’t think the school officially disapproving of alcohol consumption stops students from drinking,” senior Sam Williams said.
While authorities such as administration, Campus Safety and Campus Life staff recognize that alcohol consumption persists despite the rules, they still feel a responsibility to uphold the policy.
“We’re not out here looking to get you in trouble,” Director of Campus Safety Rick Tupper said. “But with that, there are some consequences to breaking the rules.”
According to Kopp, when students violate the alcohol policy, the first step taken by Campus Life is a conversation.
“Every situation is different, and we always seek the least harsh but most effective solution,” Kopp said.
Still, students are never thrilled to have that conversation.
“I think it makes students less likely to seek help if they need it because they’re afraid of breaking dry campus rules rather than just being afraid for their health,” Williams said.
Additionally, some students feel that the policy stifles opportunities to teach responsible drinking practices.
“If anything, it just silences a lot of important conversations that college kids should be having at this age,” junior Justin Kautz said.
Kopp echoed this sentiment.
“I don’t disagree with those who struggle with us being a dry campus,” Kopp said. “It does make it challenging to talk about, and certainly to model, responsible drinking behaviors. Having said that, I understand why we do what we do.”
Kopp encouraged students to contact Campus Life with any questions, concerns or suggestions regarding the policy or Augustana’s efforts to ensure students are aware of responsible drinking practices.
Students should not expect a change in policy anytime soon.
Bies acknowledged that the question of whether to remain a dry campus is posed to administration every few years, but he ultimately feels the policy is beneficial to Augustana students and their success.
“I think there’s two other real important questions here, and that is to what extent does alcohol use help students maintain health and safety, and as an educational institution, to what extent does alcohol assist students in becoming the best scholars they can become?” Bies said.