While discussion of the athletic department's new tailgating policy has centered around how it will affect current undergraduates, they are not the only ones whose experience at Homecoming will be different this weekend.
Before this year, the parking lot at Baker Field was open for anyone to hold a tailgating party. Under the new policy, parking is being restricted to those who have bought season parking passes. Additionally, only those who hold such passes can bring their own alcohol into the complex. Everyone else is restricted to setting up tailgates in a fenced area on the practice field, and buying alcohol from a new concessions stand.
John Sharp, CC '79, is one of those who will be taking advantage of the newly restricted space and going ahead with his tailgating plans. "I was told I could do it as always," said Sharp, who said his parents are ranked in the third tier of donors to Columbia football. "They said, 'You've been a donor to Columbia, we want to take care of our alumni.'"
The policy states that the goal is to make the environment "safer and more fan-friendly," a sentiment that athletic director Dr. M. Dianne Murphy repeated in an interview before the first home football game earlier this year, saying, "We wanted to create more areas for fans to tailgate and picnic ... Some individuals think we have eliminated certain things. If anything, we've created more opportunity."
Dr. Bill Ebner, associate director of intramural athletics, said the parking passes were issued "based on the giving levels of certain people." When the new policy was publicized on the athletic department's Web site before the season's first home game, it stated that no more season passes were available.
Though his plans to tailgate will not be affected this year, Sharp said he is not sure he will continue to donate enough to receive the pass in the future. "This is going to ruin the undergraduate experience at Columbia," he predicted. "I'm 48 years old, so I'm one of the old geezers. The people who tailgate are usually a younger crowd, and they can't afford to pay so much. With this draconian policy, they're going to alienate the very people they want to bring in."
David Juran, a professor at the Business School, was not as lucky as Sharp; as he does not hold a pass, he had to cancel the tailgating party he has held for his students for the past seven years. Juran said that he has been in contact with Murphy, and that her response was "pretty positive. It looks like for this year, we're kind of screwed, but she was sensitive. She's aware of the issue, and where I stand; I'm waiting to hear back from her about next year."
Dan Weil, who graduated from the Business School in May 2005 and took two of Juran's classes, said that Juran's tailgating party "was one of the highlights of my business school career." Weil said though he was not aware that three undergraduate councils had decided this week to boycott concessions at Baker Field, he had decided on his own that he would not purchase concessions at the event. "We don't go to watch college football but to be with our friends," he said, adding that he understands administrators are working to improve the policy.
Engineering Student Council president Tom Fazzio, SEAS '06, said he has received either oral or written support from 14 alumni and knows of at least one who has donated money to support the boycott. ESC's vice president internal Daniel Okin, SEAS '07, added that while the Law School is the only graduate program officially supporting the undergraduate boycott of concessions at Homecoming, ESC, along with Columbia College Student Council and the General Studies Student Council, anticipates support from other graduate students.