21, except on campus

By Katie Scaff ‘13

Each year thousands of college students enjoy the coming-of-age experience of turning 21.

This rite of passage gives them the legal right to buy and consume alcohol, but not all college students have the chance to thoroughly enjoy this new freedom. College students on dry-campuses across the country face restrictions on these privileges.

Pacific Lutheran University is one such institution where alcohol is prohibited on campus property.

At PLU, first-years and students under 20 years of age are required to live on campus and are thus subject to these restrictions. The restrictions extend to students over 20-years-old who opt to live in South Hall, which offers apartment-style living separate from the school’s 10 traditional residence halls.

At PLU, turning 20 is more momentous than turning 21. At 20, students have the option to continue living in traditional dorms, move to South Hall or rent a house off campus with other students.

For some, the right to consume alcohol may weigh in—because even 21-year-olds in South Hall are not allowed to have alcohol in their residence.

In an effort to promote safe drinking habits, student safety and congruence with its mission statement, the University should lift the limits on 21-year-olds.

Promoting a dry-campus is comparable to promoting an abstinence-only program.

Dry-campuses, like PLU, aren’t entirely dry. According to PLU’s annual safety report, there were 79 liquor law violations that went through the school’s student conduct system in 2010, down from 115 violations the previous year.

These violations can range from students being caught under the influence, to alcohol being confiscated from student rooms and property.

As the violations demonstrate, PLU’s alcohol policy isn’t preventing students from bringing alcohol on campus property, so what does the policy do?

Compare this no-alcohol policy to findings about abstinence-only policies.

According to a University of Washington study, sex education programs were not associated with increased risk of adolescent sexual activity or STD. The study revealed adolescents who received comprehensive sex education had a lower risk of pregnancy than adolescents who received abstinence-only or no sex education.

Given these findings, it would be in the best interest of PLU students for the university to teach safe drinking practices.

Some say PLU’s no tolerance policy forces students to leave the safety of campus property if they desire to drink.

The fact remains, there is less supervision off campus. So while student and adult campus safety officers, resident assistants and a Pierce County officer patrol the campus, students off campus are left to fend for themselves.

According to PLU’s annual safety report, 93 percent of crimes against students occur off campus.

Allowing alcohol on campus could help reduce these crime statistics as well as other reckless behavior and accidents that may go unreported.

According to PLU’s website, the alcohol policy was established in recognition of Washington State law and a desire to create a learning environment consistent with the university’s goals and mission.

The university’s mission, “seeks to educate students for lives of thoughtful inquiry, service, leadership and care—for other persons, for the community and for the earth,” but the university fails to properly educate students about alcohol safety by forcing them off school grounds to drink.

Allowing alcohol on campus could create more work for patrol workers, including campus safety officers, resident assistants and the sheriff, but the potential benefit would outweigh the additional work.

These groups would have to receive additional training, but at the same time they would be promoting another type of learning environment for students.

Students learn infinitely more outside the classroom, so while college is about getting your education and a degree, it’s also about gaining other knowledge, knowledge that is learned with practice and perhaps through trial and error.

PLU could lose money from donors who disagree with the idea of a wet-campus, but PLU should be above letting its donors control school policies. PLU donors should be funding the university, not buying its integrity.

By aligning it’s policy with that of local, state and federal guidelines pertaining to alcohol, PLU could promote safe drinking and student safety and better align its policies to its core mission.

College is about getting an education, but it is also about stepping outside of your comfort zone and experiencing new things. As a 21-year-old student at PLU, I can say the college experience and living environment would be more enjoyable if I did not have to worry about being reprimanded for alcohol I can legally consume.

Categories: Student Life

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