Opinion | Let them drink

It's time for SRU to let legal-age students drink alcohol in the privacy of their dorm

Published by , Date: November 11, 2021

Drinking at college. We all know it takes place on and off campus. A look at the university police blotter and data from the Student Conduct Office shows that those who are under the age of 21 get caught around campus and in their dorm room with alcohol every year.

What it also shows is that students of the legal age who drink in their dorm are constantly referred to Student Conduct, without breaking the law.

According to university policy, no student is allowed to possess or consume any alcohol in the residence halls. Or, as students refer to it, their home.

This policy has stayed in place even after the Borough of Slippery Rock changed from being a “dry town” in 2001. At the time, then SRU Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs told Pittsburgh Business Times that not having bars in Slippery Rock was “encouraging the students to go out and get loaded because they can’t buy one beer, but they can buy a case.

Now, the policies of the university are encouraging students to go out to local bars and off-campus parties to drink in an environment that typically encourages increased consumption of alcohol.

Since then, places like Ginger Hill Tavern have become the de facto college bar and gas stations like Sheetz have begun selling beer and wine.

Along with places like North Country Brewing Company and B&J’s Coney Island, students can also purchase alcohol at the state liquor store, Giant Eagle and pick up cases of beer at Straub Beer Distributor. But, students better not take any of that back to their private residence or even show up intoxicated, with both being violations of the university’s Student Code of Conduct.

Consequences for breaking those rules are no different for those under or over the legal age. Students will face warnings and probation for their first and second offenses, along with having to participate in an alcohol and other drug program. A third offense will result in a minimum one semester suspension. Those sanctions seem a little harsh for a 21-year-old enjoying a beer in their on-campus home who only broke a rule.

SRU may be in the majority when it comes to Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) universities that bar students from drinking in their dorm but that doesn’t make the decision the right one. Only two universities, Clarion University and Indiana University of Pennsylvania, allow of-age students to drink in some of the dorms.

An interesting note here is that Millersville University considers themselves a “responsible use” campus but explicitly prohibits private drinking in the dorms. I guess having a drink on your own time at your own place is quite irresponsible.

This isn’t to say that if students would be allowed to drink in their dorm here, that there would not be any issues or laws broken. Since 2013, there have been 288 violations by students for furnishing minors with alcohol. There have also been 712 underage violations during that same period.

But getting alcohol into a dorm room isn’t difficult. I have talked with students on how much drinking goes on in the dorms and they say you can tell it is going on every weekend. The police blotter confirms this with an average of one alcohol citation in the dorms a week and those are just the ones that are caught.

Even I have drank in the dorms over the weekend as a non-student. Carrying a bottle in with my belongings was no challenge.

The problem of underage drinking has not gone away with the punishing of legal age students enjoying a drink responsibly.

This is college. Folks are supposed to be turning into adults. They are living on their own, voting and taking out thousands of dollars to pay for an education and place to live. But to the university, drinking on campus is not welcomed because the students cannot be trusted.

Unless it is for a university sponsored event, especially one that involves donors and alumni.

Oh, and don’t forget tailgating at Rock Football games. Three hours of getting loaded before heading into the stadium.

Also, the President’s Tent in the stadium where donors can enjoy some nice beer provided by North Country Brewing Company.

And the president, who is allowed to drink in his residence whenever he likes.

I hate to give the university any ideas but maybe they could fundraise by charging students 21 and older with a permit for the semester to drink in their room. If drinking on campus is about wining and dining donors, then there you go.

But, I am against this. Students who are of legal age should be allowed to drink what they want, however much they want, when they want in the privacy of their own dorm.

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Joe is a senior communication major with concentrations in converged journalism and digital media production. This is his second year with The Rocket and first as the news editor. With a penchant for asking tough questions, his byline can be found on more than 100 articles for The Rocket including many breaking news and investigative pieces. During the hours he’s not wearing the hat of student journalist, he spends his time as a husband, father and dog owner in Slippery Rock.


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