Go against university policy or university recommendations?

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If students can’t drink in their apartments, then they go to bars.

21+ students living on campus must make a choice

Coronavirus has transformed the way this campus runs in almost every aspect, from the ways classes are held, to how organizations meet and even the ways our sports teams compete. However, one policy that hasn’t changed is that the campus is still dry.

You might be asking: why should it matter if the campus is dry, students shouldn’t be drinking anyway, right? The thing is, that among the freshmen students who have to live on campus there are also older students, students of legal drinking age, who are expected to not drink in their campus apartments. Which would be fine if the university wasn’t telling students to avoid leaving their homes as much as possible.

So what do you do as a 21 or older student living on campus? Do you break policy and drink inside your residence? Or do you go against the recommendations of the university and go to a bar or a party to drink, endangering yourself and others?

This may seem like a silly problem, but it’s one that students are facing at all times. Drinking isn’t a necessity for college, but at NDSU, it might as well be. Students are going to drink, but what choice are they left with when they can no longer do so in a way that guarantees their safety either physically or as a student in good standing with the university?

According to the North Dakota State University policy manual, the university’s choice to keep alcohol off of campus property is due to their commitment, “To maintaining an academic and social environment that is conducive to the intellectual and personal development and the safety and welfare of all members of the university community.”

This policy simply doesn’t work in a pandemic. By forcing students to drink basically anywhere but from the safety of their homes, students have to go off campus; posing a risk to the NDSU and Fargo-Moorhead communities. 

The university, specifically President Bresciani, has been clear about how students have to be vigilant during the pandemic, as he shared in one of his campus updates, “The increasing numbers show that we need to even more rigorously comply with wearing face coverings and minimizing social contact… In particular, this means not attending large gatherings or going to bars… Please remember that the actions that you take could impact the entire community.”

So students can choose to stay in their residences drinking and put themselves at risk of a policy violation or they can go against the President’s and the university’s recommendations and endanger the community. NDSU’s COVID-19 preparedness site says, “Stay home as much as possible,” that is, unless you’re trying to drink.

The university and its policies are sending two different messages to students. To be clear, I am not saying these recommendations should be applied to all students (i.e. those who are not of legal drinking age). While it’s true that students of all ages do frequently drink on campus, my recommendation is not to allow students to break the law, in fact, it’s to allow those who can legally drink to do so safely during the pandemic. 

This isn’t a small community of NDSU that is being affected. Most students in University Village are over the age of 21. When Residence Life is cracking down on legal drinking but students walk around campus apartment buildings without masks on, which really tells you where the priorities lie.

If NDSU doesn’t want a large portion of its students to drink during a pandemic, they should just come right out and say so. Rather than providing students with mixed messages on what is safe for themselves and their community. 

The rules for on-campus drinking are based on laws like the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 and the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act Amendments of 1989. However, these acts were meant for a pandemic-free world, and they certainly don’t require that universities keep students from participating in legal activities.

Instead, these acts, specifically the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act (as it applies better here), requires universities receiving federal funding to curb the use of harmful and illegal substances. In this case, it seems it would cause far more harm to drink outside of the home, especially when using, and I’ll say it again, legal substances.

The act also asks for drug-free zones to be established, but NDSU’s campus-wide alcohol-free policy is a choice, not a mandate, from this act. 

It wouldn’t surprise me if the university was aware of the position this puts students in, but couldn’t directly tell students they should just go off campus to drink. With a football game of 8,000 or more attendants coming, I’m not sure NDSU is really in the position to be telling students to protect their community. But, they could at least provide students with the ability to protect themselves.

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