Whether or not alcohol belongs on college campuses is a debatable issue that was raised by Castleton students at each end of the spectrum last semester. Now, these same students are attempting to implement changes that could affect the entire campus.Michelle Spier, along with a few other students, has played a large role in having the school host events where alcohol is served. Last semester two such events were held in the Alumni Room of Huden Dining Hall. These events had live music and tables set up for students and faculty to interact, have a drink, and relax.
Spier believes that having events like these on campus are important because they get students who are otherwise uninvolved in school functions together and participating.
But Brad Lussier, a non-traditional freshman, believes that instead of promoting alcohol use on campus the college should be discouraging it.
Lussier is trying to persuade Castleton’s administration that what they should be doing instead of inviting students to drink in Huden is designating a dry dormitory that is alcohol and drug free. Lussier, knows firsthand about the dangers of drugs and alcohol having fought addiction for 16 years of his life.
Now clean, Lussier wants to help others from falling into the same lifestyle that he once found himself absorbed in.
A Push for Alcohol
Spier first got the idea of hosting events on campus that serve alcohol during Phil Lamy’s Community in American Society class last semester when the class was asked to come up with ideas for what they wanted to see change on campus.
“My group decided that we’d like to see school events that served alcohol, with the idea that these events may possibly cater to a different group of students than the ones that attend regular school events,” Spier said.
The Alumni Room, which holds approximately 100 people and already had a liquor license, was a perfect location for these events, Spier said. The first event, which was an “open mic night,” filled the room to capacity.
Later that semester, another event featuring Twiddle and a jazz performance drew about 50 students, according to Spier.
As the semester came to a close and Lamy’s class members went their separate ways, Spier wanted to keep pushing for more on-campus events that served alcohol. For the spring semester she has taken on a senior project, which puts her in charge of continuing to organize “pub nights” on campus.
Another part of her senior project is attempting to open a permanent pub on campus.
Both President Dave Wolk and Dean of Students Gregory Stone support the idea of holding events on campus that advocate responsible drinking among students who are of age.
“It’s not the college’s responsibility or business to run a pub, and we probably don’t want to put energy into it, but if students want to then I don’t want to stop that,” Stone said.
Stone and Wolk each attended one of the “pub nights” last semester and said that overall they thought they went well. The events brought no problems that either of them are aware of and public safety did not run in to any trouble stemming from them either.
But Lussier is one student who feels strongly against college events serving alcohol. He said that the last “pub night” “turned the entire campus into a huge frat party.”
Spier believes that if Castleton would install a permanent pub in Huden then events would not be looked at as “drinking events” but instead just events where people can hang out and have a drink if they desire. She also believes that it would provide a safe and monitored environment where students could drink alcohol without having to travel far.
Of course there are many aspects to be considered, Spier admitted, including staffing these events, which because they take place in Huden, is the responsibility of ARAMARK.
Before the process for a permanent pub on campus begins, an open forum will be held for anyone interested in discussing their feelings about drinking, the effects a pub on campus would have, and other related topics. The forum is expected to take place at some point in February or early March, according to Spier.
The liquor license was recently changed in Huden so that it now covers the entire building, said Food Service Director Pete Marritt. With this change there is a possibility that the next “pub night” scheduled for Feb. 2 will take place in the caf, which would hold more people.
The event is scheduled as an “open mic night” and is offered to all students 18 and older Spier said.
A push against alcohol
Lussier, who volunteers at the Rutland Prevention Coalition, lived in Ellis Hall last semester where he figured that alcohol wouldn’t be a common sight considering the percentage of students in Ellis were freshmen under the age of 21.
He was mistaken.
Lussier recalled seeing no regulations to students bringing alcohol and other drugs into the building while he lived there.
Lussier believes that many students who don’t want to drink or do drugs fall into a trap of peer pressure when they come to college.
“Eighteen-year-old kids come to college and feel that they need to fit in by getting drunk and high because that seems to be the social norm to come to college and drink,” Lussier said.
He believes that if Castleton had a dry dormitory it would save a lot of students from these pressures because they would be living with other students who have made a choice not to drink and take drugs.
Lussier’s proposal for a dry dormitory, or at very least a dry floor, is something that other Vermont state schools have experimented with. Johnson State has a dry dorm, which from what Stone has heard, has worked relatively well.
Lyndon State has “substance free lifestyle” housing said the school’s Director of Student Life, Jonathan Davis, but there is not a high enough demand to make an entire dry building.
Lussier started his push for change by bringing his concerns to Stone, then the student senate, and most recently to Wolk before winter break began.
“It’s really not about me, but instead it’s to help other students. It’s important to me because I understand the ramifications of addiction,” Lussier said.
Wolk said that he would support creating a dry dormitory if it would be beneficial to the school and students.
But the issue is a much more complicated one than it appears at first glance, according to Stone.
“We are always open to the idea of a dry dorm here, but there are a lot of logistical matters that would have to be figured out before we could put it to action,” he said.
The biggest concern that Stone sees about designating a dormitory to be alcohol and drug free is whether there would be enough students on campus who would want to live it. Stone has doubts that an entire building could be filled, or even an entire floor.
Another difficulty that Stone sees is the complication of how to police the dorm to make sure alcohol and drug restrictions are not being violated. There is also the problem of deciding which dorm would be made the dry one without upsetting anyone.
Some students may sign up to live in the dry dorm for the wrong reasons, Stone added
Although Stone said he isn’t sure if a dry dorm would work at Castleton, he said, “I love that (Lussier) has brought this question up for the community to talk about and we’ll see what happens with it.”
Wolk has a similar view on the situation, saying “If there was a group of students who wanted to live in a dry dorm it would be fine with me.”
The next step toward a dry dorm is holding an open forum for students and faculty to share their opinions on the prospect of a dry dorm on campus. A date for the forum has not been scheduled yet, but one is expected to take place in February or early March.
If administration does not proceed to implement a dry dorm, Lussier said he will take the issue to the chancellor for something to be changed.
“I won’t fail,” he said.