University administrators and student council presidents revisited the controversial Baker Field alcohol policy last Thursday, but that information was not made public at the Columbia College Student Council's weekly meeting.
"On February 23, we had a productive meeting about football tailgating at Baker Field with a number of student leaders and administrators from across the University community," Athletic Director M. Dianne Murphy said in a prepared statement. "We reviewed what took place last season and began a discussion about the 2006 season."
CCSC President Michelle Oh, CC '06, Engineering Student Council President Tom Fazzio, SEAS '06, and General Studies Student Council President Stephen Davis, GS/JTS '06, were all present at the meeting. Davis discussed the potential changes with GSSC in a closed door session Tuesday night, and Fazzio told his council about the conversations with athletics, but the council delayed discussion because of the ESC constitutional review scheduled for Monday night's meeting.
Oh, however, did not reveal her participation in Thursday's summit to her council during Sunday's weekly meeting and only began to inform her fellow representatives over the past few days.
"There's an idea that's been put forth that I'm going to discuss with my council on Sunday," Oh said Wednesday.
The alcohol policy at Baker Field first came under scrutiny last fall when the administration abruptly banned students from bringing alcohol into the tailgating area. The decision, and confusion surrounding its announcement, became a major concern for these three student councils last semester. Despite initial reluctance to confront the administration, Oh supported a council-led protest that resulted in a compromise.
Now the administration is revisiting that decision. One of the current proposals under consideration involves restricting alcohol at the tailgating area, which is located on the football practice field, adjacent to Wien Stadium. Under the system, students would not be allowed to bring alcohol into the tailgating area, and those over the age of 21 will be limited to four free beers from a corporate sponsor.
"It's similar to how it's done at Yale," Executive Vice President for Administrative and Student Services Lisa Hogarty said. "If we can get a corporate sponsor who can as part of the discussion provide water, soda, or beer," drinks will be permitted, she said.
"We are exploring corporate sponsorships," Associate Athletic Director for Sports Marketing Barry Neuberger added.
Under the proposed system, patrons who have purchased parking passes reportedly valued at over $2,000 can bring unlimited amounts of alcohol into their tailgates.
"It would create this hierarchy within the structure of the game," said Nishant Dixit, CC '07 vice president and CCSC presidential candidate. "If you are a rich alum, you can do whatever you want at the game. If you didn't give the money, then you can't. Columbia is about the egalitarian experience."
All parties insisted that discussions are still ongoing and no final decisions have been reached. Complicating matters, the practice field is slated to be converted into a field hockey stadium over the summer.
Prior to the football team's home opener last fall, Murphy's fresh policy banning alcohol at Baker Field tailgates caused an uproar amongst fans and alumni. The student council-led protest, which featured t-shirts reading "Support the Team, Not the Policy," resulted in a new policy allowing students over the age of 21 to bring a six-pack into the tailgating area.
"One of the things I was most impressed by the new council was how they reacted to the new Baker policy," CCSC presidential candidate and current College Democrats president Seth Flaxman, CC '07, said. "It showed a lot of backbone. I only imagine that the administration will not make the same mistake. Obviously, the key to all of this, is the administration talking to the students before it's implemented, because we can stop them before they do something bad."
Both Dixit and Flaxman said that the alcohol policy could play an important role in their campaigns, depending on the actions taken by the councils over the upcoming weeks.
Moreover, fans and athletes said they are frustrated by measures that could potentially drive away spectators for a football team that has regularly struggled to draw students to games.
"At big-time schools you do have a larger fan base," wide receiver Pete Chromiak, CC '06, said. "It's fun to bring in grills, to bring in beer. It's already hard enough for people to get to Baker ... I understand the University wants to maintain a nice image for alumni, but alumni want to come back and drink, too."
Next season will be the first for new head coach Norries Wilson, as the Athletic Department looks to rebuild the football program. He follows in the footsteps of former head coach Bob Shoop, who privately expressed anger with the administration's handling of the alcohol policy last fall.
Frustrated by the previous policies, students said they are looking at their council leaders to represent their interests in one of the areas where last fall's activism demonstrated that change can be effected.
"It's so hard to get Columbia students involved together," Chromiak said. "These games are a good way to get people together. Student council, that is one of their goals-to bring people together. Indirectly, I think addressing this achieves that."
"They all want to make sure we do this right and do it in the best," Fazzio said. "Our discussions have been incredibly positive. We're ready to get this done."
Theodore Orsher and Victor Morales contributed to this article.
Correction: "Baker Alcohol Policy Revisited" (March 2) misquoted Associate Athletic Director for Sports Marketing Barry Neuberger. Neuberger said the department is examining in-game promotions, not corporate sponsorships.