Colleges run bars
to battle binges
Officials try to control drinking by keeping it on school
By Glenn O'Neal USA TODAY March 30,1998
with the nagging problem of heavy drinking by college students, a number of
colleges have decided to step behind the bar and take on the role of the
Students have long been able to get a beer on campus, and not
just at fraternity parties. A 1997 survey of more than 240 colleges by the
Institute of Public Policy at George Mason University, Fairfax, Va., reveals
that students can buy alcohol by the drink on 40% of the campuses of four-year
What's different now, though, is that the campus run bar, where
schools say they can better control who's consuming alcohol and how much, is
emerging as an answer to the headline grabbing episodes arising from student
Administrators at Salisbury State University in eastern Maryland
opened The Crossroads Club last fall in one end of the old dining hall.
"We've provided a place that's safer than being off campus," says college
president William Merwin.
The bar is decorated with memorabilia from the
school's sailing club and lacrosse team, school T-shirts and pictures of
students hamming it up for the camera. Student bartenders pour $1.50 glasses of
beer for 21-and-over students, who must wear brightly colored wristbands, and
serve glasses of soda to underage students, identified by the waterproof "X"
stamped on their hands.
Kristina Crystal, a 22-year-old education major,
says the on campus bar is a change from the bar scene in town, where patrons
work on pickup lines with the opposite sex.
"It's nice not having that
whole ugly scene here;' she says while sipping a lager.
Since 1996, deaths
at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Louisiana State University,
Indiana University in Pennsylvania, Frostburg State University in western
Maryland and Hartwick College in New York have been linked to binge drinking. A
nationwide 1995-96 survey by the Core Institute at Southern Illinois University
at Carbondale shows that 42% of college students were binge drinkers within the
two weeks before the survey. Binge drinking means consumption of at least five
drinks in a row for men, four for women.
Other schools have responded by
banning alcohol at school functions, suspending students who are caught with
alcohol three times and only allowing students 21 or older to possess alcohol in
the privacy of dorm rooms.
Officials at schools like Salisbury State have a
different view on combating the problem.
"It's certainly advantageous to
have people close to campus or on campus, where they would be less likely to
drive," says Todd Wilson, spokesman at Colorado College in Colorado Springs,
which opened a campus pub last fall. "I guess we don't take a puritan approach
Salisbury State dean Ronald Dotterer says too much conversation is
spent on drinking or not rather than on responsible drinking. We're at the start
of a trend, a trend of viewing the consumption of alcohol in a larger context,"
A campus run bar fits in with the mission of educating students,
The seed for a campus bar at Salisbury State was planted by the
Core survey - results of which alarmed college president Merwin.
Salisbury campus, 45% of students said they drove a car after five drinks.
"Not only is it against the law, but they were taking their lives in their
hands," Merwin says.
An Alcohol Task Force of students, parents and faculty
began a meeting and delivered 49 recommendations to administrators. The school
agreed to extend the hours of the school library and gym and approved a
recommendation for an on campus bar.
Merwin says students were drinking
heavily off campus because they felt there wasn’t anything to do on campus. The
on campus bar gives students a place to drink in a controlled manner.
Manager Mike Nugent says the club attracts 600 to 700 students a night, 1,200 on
a record night.
Students old enough to drink wear the brightly colored
wristbands, which can be removed only by cutting them. Bartenders don't serve
beer to students with cut wristbands, nor do they serve beer in pitchers anymore
because older students were pouring beer for underage friends when the club
A club isn't a worry-free operation for the college.
"We've increased our risk to a ce-tain extent," Merwin says, "I just feel like
we are more in control of the culture now than before."
Just before spring
break, more than a dozen students trickled in to have a few beers, play pool or
watch the University of Maryland take on the University of Arizona in the NCAA
men's basketball tournament.
Students say the pub is a good place to mingle
both for underage students and those 21 or older. It's one alternative for
underage students to going to an off campus party, paying $2 to the residents
and hovering around a keg.
"This is a much better environment for them to
go than going to a party off campus where they can drink all they want;' says
James Blaine, a 21-year-old junior.
But students old enough to drink
legally are enticed to off campus bars because of cost. A local bar that night
was offering small draft beers for 25 cents, a bargain considering a 16-ounce
beer at The Crossroads is $1.50 and a 22-ounce beer is $2.25.
expensive here for a college bar," Blaine says.
Jessica Marshall, 22,
questions whether the on campus bar stems the tide of binge drinking.
something that occurs on every campus," she says. "People are going to find a
way to drink if they want to.
Salisbury State administrators say it's too
early to tell whether the on campus bar is helping solve the problem of binge
An oncampus pub is not necessarily profitable either, with
Salis-bury's Crossroads Club just break-ing even.
The campus pub at Johns
Ho-kins University in Baltimore, called E-Level, had lost about $50,000 since
its opening in 1994 before attendance picked up this year, says manager Pat
Bearry, Pool tables, dartboards and a canoe hanging from the ceiling made the
pub look like a pub instead of a dingy classroom. Bearry says the pub will
likely turn a $20,000 profit this year.
David Anderson, professor at George
Mason's Institute of Public Policy, says schools' efforts to curb heavy drinking
have been eroding the past few years. The school's survey of colleges nationwide
shows that in 1991, 95% of schools mandated that nonalcoholic drinks be served
at functions where alcohol was served. Last year that number dropped to 87%, he
Alan Marlatt, psychology professor at the University of Washington in
Seattle, says an on campus bar is a pragmatic approach to "just say how," as
opposed to "just say no' "
"Alcohol is a
part of society," Marlatt says. "If you ban it altogether, it's like banning
sexual activity: It's going to go on anyway and be more difficult to track. It
will go underground."