ACI Board Approves Pilot Project to Support Multi Faceted Alcohol Awareness Program
2005. 01. 20.
Discussions of alcohol tend to be controversial, and for good reason. There is no doubt that alcohol, or at least the abuse of alcohol, has destroyed many lives. At the same time, alcohol is a pervasive part of our culture. We are barraged by ads for alcohol in every media, organizations like MADD and SADD remind us of the daily tragedies that come from mixing drinking and driving, our area has seen the development of nationally known vineyards, and some of us were raised with the story of Jesus turning water into wine.
The announcement that the Albertson College of Idaho Board of Trustees had approved (in principle) the sale of wine or beer in the student center on campus has drawn many comments and commentaries. Some of these were thoughtful, some emotional, all were well intentioned. But the simple fact is that almost all of these reactions were based on reports that included errors in fact, tone and substance. Debate and dissent is healthy and valuable. So in the interest of having that debate focused on the actual story of ACI's exploration of this matter, we offer some corrections as well additional insight into the discussion on the logic that led to this decision.
Alcohol abuse is already established in secondary and even elementary schools, and is a national epidemic in colleges. So it is incumbent on colleges like ours to confront this fact with thoroughly researched and comprehensively developed solutions. In fact, the decision to approve a pilot project in which beer and wine can be served three days a week was based, in large measure, on a substantial body of research which shows that a carefully modeled environment in which alcohol is legally served will reduce, rather than exacerbate alcohol abuse. CofI is wholly supportive of abstinence in principle, but we must deal seriously with the fact that not all students will practice abstinence, and policies that attempt to coerce abstinence have not proven successful. It is not just the failed 'noble experiment' of prohibition, but a host of other evidence clearly indicates the lack of success in that model. All evidence, including studies by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) suggests that our multi-faceted approach will result in reduced alcohol abuse, diminished drunk-driving, increasingly responsible attitudes toward alcohol consumption, and will lessen the peer pressure that too often makes it difficult for students to practice abstinence. These objectives are at the heart of ACI's decision.
Before we follow that conversation, it would be useful to correct some of the inaccuracies that have been circulated. To begin with, the establishment of a 'pub' is not an established fact. What the CofI Board approved was the concept of allowing beer and wine to be served in a controlled environment. This is not to be a wide open bar, as some stories seemed to indicate, but an option that would be allowed three evenings a week, during limited hours, to people who have been taught about the problems of abuse. Rather than a policy which allows one drink an hour, as was stated, the snack bar will enforce a strict two-drink maximum. The alcohol policy in the residence halls and the rest of the campus is not being 'relaxed' in any way. Rather, CofI has taken proactive steps by establishing a campus-wide alcohol policy that carefully monitors and restricts consumption.
We have collected years of data to gauge the effectiveness of our programs. At CofI we are fortunate to be below national norms in nearly every area related to issues of alcohol abuse by college students (from the CORE Institute of the Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Studies.) Our general campus alcohol policy follows state law and includes a parental notification policy for those students who violate our policy as well as alcohol educational awareness programs through peer counselors, resident assistants and campus ministries, and healthy lifestyle dorms that do not allow any alcohol.
Over a nine-month period, a student taskforce worked with the Dean of Students to research the issue of serving alcohol in the Student Union Building. It was this research that convinced the CofI Board of Trustees that the idea could have positive implications for the campus. The research included a report by the NIAA found that programs that address environmental factors, such as the limited sale of alcohol in a controlled atmosphere effectively address alcohol abuse by creating an environment where responsible and moderate consumption of alcohol is modeled. This atmosphere intentionally counters misconceptions new college students often have about how college students act. So given the supportive research, in early December the CofI Board of Trustees provided initial approval for a pilot project. The Board also stipulated that the issue be revisited after a semester of operation to determine if the operation is functioning as intended. If it is not, the facility will revert to its existing use.
CofI must still gain approval from the City of Caldwell, Canyon County, and the State of Idaho for licensing and permits. It is unlikely that CofI will be able to obtain all the necessary permits for three to six months. If, and only if, the proper licensure is granted, the Board stipulated a strict maximum of two drinks for all patrons. The area where alcohol would be served would not be open to the general public, and the atmosphere would not be that of a bar, but rather like a restaurant that primarily serves food, but also makes available wine or beer. Every student who wishes to purchase alcohol would have to demonstrate that he or she is of legal age, and obtain a membership. To qualify for membership, the student would have to go through an alcohol education program provided by Campus Safety. If all approvals are attained, the hours of operation will be limited to Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. Beer and wine would be served by the glass by employees of the College's food service provider, Bon Appetite and never by students. No pitchers of beer or bottles of wine will be sold and food will be available at all times as well as non-alcoholic beverages, and there will be no happy hours. By Idaho State law if over 50% of sales are in food, minors may be permitted. This will indeed be the case in ACI's situation, as that is the primary function of the Snack Bar.As you can see, this was not a decision arrived at without considerable thought and concern, and it certainly was not a 'relaxation' of alcohol policies on the CofI campus. The debate will continue, and we wish to encourage thoughtful, educated, and fact-based commentary. If you have insight you would like to share, please contact Albertson College of Idaho Communications office by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.