Beer garden springs from dry campus

Augustana’s Viking Days football game on Oct. 12 provided the Department of Athletics with two victories: the 16-13 win in overtime against St. Cloud State and an approved beer garden in the stadium.

But allowing alcohol at the football game has raised questions for some students over whether or not Augustana will continue to be a dry campus.

The beer garden was a first for the university, as alcohol is only allowed in designated places on campus, including the suites at basketball games, alumni gatherings and faculty events in the President’s Residence. Alcohol is not allowed in the dorms.

“We’re being responsive to a level of interest of some of our fans — to enhance their gameday experience — but we need to balance that with a population of undergraduate students that need to be 21 and over,” university President Stephanie Herseth Sandlin said.

Beyond the beer garden, Herseth Sandlin said that she is open to a conversation about changing alcohol policies on campus.

“Having a good conversation about it would help us modernize the policy and maybe go a step or two down the road of recognizing our reality without an outdated policy that everybody knows is hard to enforce,” Herseth Sandlin said.

How the drinks started pouring

Just five days before the game, Herseth Sandlin sent out a special notice via email to Augustana students, faculty and staff stating that she had allowed the sale of alcohol in a designated area during the Viking Days football game.

In the email, Herseth Sandlin attached a press release from the Department of Athletics with the headline “Augustana Athletics to Have Beer Garden at Viking Days Game Oct. 12.”

Athletic Director Josh Morton said in the email that a lot of planning and thought went into the development of the beer garden.

“We are always looking for ways to improve our gameday atmosphere, and we think this is something that will provide a unique experience to Augustana football,” Morton said.

Current restrictions on dry campus

Alcohol is currently accessible to people over 21 in the suites at basketball games and at certain campus events hosted by alumni or faculty, either in the Froiland Science Complex or the 3-in-1 room in the Morrison Commons.

However, this limits who can get alcohol and where they can obtain it from.

Herseth Sandlin said she did not like the limited access to alcohol, as it was only available to those with access to the suites at sporting events.

“That didn’t look right to me. What is that message to students? That ‘oh, you’re only viewed responsible if you give a certain amount of money to the university and get an invitation up to a suite or have the means to afford that,’” Herseth Sandlin said.

Herseth Sandlin recently had the Board of Trustees update the alcohol policy’s language to retain the power of allowance in the president’s office but make the policy more accessible for those who want to host events with alcohol.

Some students will raise a glass, either way

For students like senior Marissa Pacheco, having a beer garden was exciting.

“It’s a good step for Augustana,” Pacheco said. “I thought it was a good idea.”

Pacheco, a viking adviser in Bergsaker Hall, said an alcohol policy change is needed.

“We act like no one drinks here or pretend that it doesn’t happen,” Pacheco said. “That’s even worse because then people are binge-drinking and trying to hide it, and if we just open it up a little bit more, that makes for safer drinking, I think.”

According to the Annual Security and Fire Safety Report put out by Campus Safety, there were 24 judicial system referrals regarding liquor law in 2018.

Moving forward

Whether or not alcohol policy changes are forthcoming, Jeff Venekamp, senior associate director of Campus Life, said Augustana would benefit from having an on-campus bar.

“I could imagine a world where you go to the Back Alley at 5 o’clock and you have access to a beer,” Venekamp said. “You could go and be like ‘let’s talk about this concept’ over a drink like normal adult humans do.”

Both Venekamp and Herseth Sandlin believe that seeing examples of positive alcohol role modeling on campus would be helpful for students.

“I don’t know if we teach that skill [of responsible drinking], and so we expect students to learn it on their own,” Venekamp said.

Herseth Sandlin said the university will continue to evaluate its alcohol policies but believes it’s too soon to tell whether Augustana will eventually become a wet campus.

Herseth Sandlin emphasized that the beer garden is not a controversial step but a positive step for Augustana.

“This is about modeling socially responsible drinking.”

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