In the latest change to the undergraduate “Guide to Living,” the Office of Residential Programs updated its alcohol policy in Southfield and Living-Learning Community dormitories. In first-year dorms, residents who are of legal drinking age can now “possess, store, or consume alcohol” in the formerly dry dorms.
In reality, this policy change affects only a handful of residents in dorms housing first-years. However, it represents a significant and commendable policy shift on the part of the University. Allowing residents who are 21 years or older to have alcohol in their rooms is a pragmatic and reasonable policy that is in tune with the realities of student alcohol consumption. In accordance with state law, this policy does not make underaged drinking more permissible; however it does acknowledge that underaged drinking takes place and seeks to create safety measures to limit risk.
In particular, it is encouraging to see housing adopt a policy that is more in line with the University’s medical amnesty and good samaritan policies. Those policies, which were backed by student leaders last semester, acknowledge the prevalence of alcohol consumption in dormitories, but seek to improve safety. We hope it will go a long way towards helping this campus continue to manage drinking in a safe and responsible way.
Even with programs such as “AlcoholEDU” and staff training, Residential Programs can never reasonably expect to achieve an alcohol policy that perfectly balances the safety of students with the rights of those over 21. The new policy shift is a reflection of this difficulty. It replaces a strict rule that was rarely followed or enforced with a compromise that complies with state law and allows students of age to drink alcohol in their rooms.
We hope that the student body realizes and appreciates the thought that went into creating this policy change. Examples of administration working with students to create reasonable policy should serve to point out that the once infamous “war on fun” is now, perhaps, a little less violent.