By Sydney Shaw
When College administrators announced at the beginning of September that guests would be prohibited from bringing outside alcohol into this year’s Homecoming tailgate, the campus community was outraged. Of the more than 400 people who voted in The Signal’s most recent online poll, 76 percent indicated they are against the new policy.
According to Amy Hecht, vice president for Student Affairs, and John P. Donohue, vice president for College Advancement, the changes were made in an effort to ensure that all guests could enjoy Homecoming safely on Saturday, Oct. 29.
“We can have fun without getting drunk, but…” was a common thread seen on social media over the past few weeks. Students’ arguments covered everything from the annoyance of waiting in long lines — the College hired a third-party vendor to serve alcohol at the tailgate and monitor consumption — to having to pay a hefty price for a drink — the price of beer fluctuated from $3 to $4 for a 12 oz. container, while wine was $4 per 5 oz. — to the possibility of alumni feeling less inclined to donate money to the College.
The biggest concern, though, appeared to be that students might drink in excess prior to arriving at the tailgate and put themselves at risk for alcohol poisoning. It’s true that students who are of the legal drinking age might not want to wait in vendor lines or pay for drinks, and those who are under 21 can’t sneak any alcohol if there isn’t a huge amount being brought into the tailgate in the first place.
So, how did this new policy fare in reality?
There was only one summons, one citation for underage drinking, one medical transport and five total medical incidents at this year’s tailgate, according to Campus Police.
The statistics are nearly nonexistent compared to those from the 2015 Homecoming tailgate, when Campus Police issues 16 summonses, 14 citations for underage drinking, called for two medical transports and handled 14 total medical incidents.
In previous years, there were far more alcohol-related issues. In 2013, Campus Police saw eight medical transports, 25 summonses and 24 citations for underage drinking.
In other words, the College’s new policy worked. It resulted in fewer trips to the hospital and fewer legal issues for students than in previous years.
People might argue that there were fewer medical transports because there were fewer people at the tailgate in general. But despite the announcement of the changes nearly two months prior to Homecoming, there was a tremendous turnout at the tailgate.
More than 1,500 alumni pre-registered for the event, and the tailgate itself had around 3,000 people attend at any given time, according to John Castaldo, the executive director for Alumni Affairs. Dozens of organizations from the College still showed up to rep blue and gold and mingle with friends.
However, there were many angry students who skipped the tailgate entirely to drink with friends in their dorms and off-campus homes. Those individuals argue that the new alcohol policy takes away the whole point of Homecoming: to showcase school spirit and connect with friends and alumni.
I bet it was nearly impossible, though, to connect with people at the tailgate for those students who didn’t show up to it at all. They promised they could have fun without getting drunk. They said they just desperately wanted to spend time with students, past and present. But in the end, they didn’t show up. Why was this new policy such a deterrent?
The truth is that many of these students can’t actually enjoy themselves without the aid of alcohol. Drinking is more intertwined with the concept of Homecoming than the actual purpose of the event. It’s about celebrating school spirit, forging new friendships with alumni and strengthening existing ones with students — not about getting wasted in a parking lot.
Next year, I encourage students to approach any proposed Homecoming policies with an open mind. Appreciate that College administrators spend a great deal of time considering the pros and cons of these policies and that they are implemented solely for the wellness of the guests there, not to suck the fun out of a much-anticipated event.