Bringing football back to ETSU has brought along a few other changes. Tailgating is taking place on campus, and more students are leaving the suitcase unpacked to stay for the games and recreation campus has to offer.  

Because ETSU is no longer under the thumb of the Tennessee Board of Regents, the university has transitioned to a new Board of Trustees. Comprised of community and business leaders from or active in the region, these board members have an invested interest in the success of the school and surrounding communities for different reasons, as we all do. 

If you are a reader of this publication, then you know that the alcohol policy at ETSU has undergone some changes too. Gone are the days of complete prohibition. ETSU has joined the rest of the nation by loosening the regulations pertaining to alcohol on campus. 

There are designated areas, days and times that drinking “adult beverages” will be allowed. Certain rules define what vessel the liquid is transported in and other regulations require a distributing license as well. Distribution and consumption rules obviously apply as well, age limits and all.

Please do not read this and think one can run out and throw a “kegger” in their dorm room. The point here is not to give permission to drink but to pose the question, why?

Why has this been done now?

It’s obvious; sports and drinking have a long and storied history in the U.S. Centuries of alcohol consumption have been documented in the textbooks used at ETSU and newspapers like this one. 

In the U.S. college football is nearly synonymous with “tailgating,” which is informally defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as the activity of having a social gathering, serving food and drink from the back of a vehicle, being eager to share and bonding with complete strangers.

Is drinking conducive to the learning environment?

No, alcohol is not conducive to the learning environment and this is supported by decades of research readily available. However, there can be an argument made that university isn’t just about learning academics. One can argue that a student also learns the social structure required to conduct business in a professional environment.

There can be an argument made here in support of alcohol permitted on campus. The fact that, culturally, more business deals are made in the bar room rather than the boardroom is an argument for another time.  

Should these sorts of lifestyle choices be left to off campus locations?

For this, the individual must look introspectively and decide if that lifestyle is one they wish to partake in. Then the question of where to partake can be answered. Location of tailgating does not determine if one is going to tailgate or not. The argument of accessibility and exposure can be countered with, “Where there is a will there is a way.” This is true in my opinion so pointless to argue. If one wants to consume alcohol they will whether it is allowed or not, on campus or off.  

If there are exceptions to the prohibition of alcohol, should there be more freedom in other areas too? If the university is going to make exceptions for tailgating and for certain drinking areas, what about disabled students who live on campus, are over 21-years-old and cannot make it to the designated areas without assistance? If it is a weekend and these student’s aids are off work, cannot this person of legal age enjoy a beverage in their dorm room responsibly on a Saturday night? If the answer is no, then why can the rowdy binge drinker enjoy one at a tailgate party Saturday morning? 

Was this decision motivated by money?

This is an easy yes. I feel this decision was simply made in hopes to raise more money for the university though contracts, alcohol sales and legal revenue. I am not against raising money for the school, but should the administration open the student body up to the negative effects of alcohol on campus for hopes of a few extra dollars? There are plenty of opportunities to drink off campus that we don’t need to allow it on campus.  

Finally, what are the long-term implications?

The effects will have to be looked at in retrospect. There is no way to predict the future. The pros and cons list of allowing or disallowing alcohol could go on forever. Time will tell if this is the right decision. It is the responsibility of individual students to follow the rules of consumption.  

More exceptions will have to be made in order to accommodate those that feel excluded. The number of arrests on campus related to alcohol is going to increase along with the revenue generated by them. Ultimately the decision to drink/binge drink is an individual one, and the administration’s hope is to make more money in order to improve the university.  

Only time will tell what this means for ETSU. Hopefully we won’t become the next great party school. We must remember where the road leads that is paved with good intentions.