Debate still over alcohol policy
Administrators and Student Union officials have reached several compromises regarding the details of a policy drafted by the administration in January outlining procedures for serving alcohol at campus events.Union officials expressed concern when the policy was released, and told the Justice in late January that they had not been consulted in its drafting. Union officials said the original policy was too restrictive and put an unnecessary financial burden on event organizers, but both sides said progress had been made toward reaching a final agreement.
"I think the negotiations were positive," said Director of Student Activities Stephanie Grimes, who said in January that the policy only formalized already existing rules. "I feel good about them."
The policy, which was drafted primarily by Grimes with the help of the Events Services office, Aramark and Public Safety, stipulates the conditions that must be in place in order for alcohol to be served at a campus event.
Student groups planning an event with alcohol must send members who are over 21 to attend a "One-Stop" event-planning meeting to discuss with Dining Services staffers the details concerning the presence of alcohol at the event, the policy states. Also, alcohol must be provided and served by Dining Services inside a fenced-in "beer garden" erected at least 20 feet from the event. In addition, at least one bartender and one person checking students' identifications must be present for every 75 students of drinking age expected to attend.
But the Union and the administration compromised by agreeing to set the number of ID readers and bartenders by the number of kegs, not people. One pair of staff members for every two kegs will now be required, as opposed to one pair for every one keg, after group leaders voiced concerns about extra labor costs. Director of Social Affairs Edgar Ndjatou '06 said bartenders generally cost approximately $150 per event while ID checkers charge around $125.
He said that while he could not say student groups hosting alcoholic events were "astronomically better off" under the compromise in terms of added costs, he felt the new arrangement is a more adequate approach.
"It does help that [student groups] don't have to worry about not paying for too much labor at an event," he said. "I feel that at this point we're on our way to having much more flexibility."
Union President Jenny Feinberg '07 said she felt the wristband requirement was a satisfactory precaution, but that a roped-in beer garden area was unnecessary.
"I think that there has to be a certain level of trust for students," she said. "If you're requiring us to wear wristbands and requiring us to pay for multiple police officers, it's the police officers' duty to watch students and ensure that the ones wearing the wristbands are the ones drinking the alcohol."
Feinberg called the beer garden "very restrictive," noting its isolating effects on social interaction between students who drink and those who do not.
"At the very least if we could change the setup of the beer garden itself or the location to let people feel like not only are they part of the event, but people who are not drinking can also interact with people that are," she said.
Grimes acknowledged student concerns but said certain restrictions must be left in place.
"With some of the challenges and some of the situations that have occurred this year with alcohol, it's a little challenging for the administration to support that," she said.
Grimes defended the concept of the beer garden, saying she had researched about seven other colleges similar to Brandeis, all of which used beer gardens to control alcohol consumption at campus events. Although administrators would not negotiate about the requirement to have both a beer garden and wristbands, Grimes said her department would pay for the cost of the wristbands.
"The cost is still being [incurred], it's just being subsidized by my office," Grimes said.
Despite the alterations, anxiety persists among student leaders about the financial implications of the policy.
"Changes have been made, but it's still very difficult to have alcohol at events now because the financial obligations are so significant," Feinberg said.
Director of Student Events Helen Pekker '06 said that under the originally drafted policy, it is unlikely that beer will be served at Springfest-the annual spring concert planned by the campus programming group-this year.
"We're upset because we want to serve the student body and everyone had such a great time with beer last year at Springfest," Pekker said. "We should be able to do it again, but the financial cost is too high right now for us, and it's very unfortunate."
Feinberg called it "ludicrous" that alcoholic event planners must at least 21-years-old, noting that the organizers of many Union events at which alcohol was served had not been of age.
"The fact that someone who wants to initiate something with alcohol has to be 21 is diminishing any sense of freedom that students would want to have," Feinberg said. "Only 21 year olds have the right to drink that alcohol, but anyone can have alcohol at an event.
"The irony of these new policies is I'm not sure how many problems it actually solves," she added. "If our goal is to teach people to drink more responsibly, cutting down the opportunities for them to drink is not going to improve anything.