Alcohol policy: Culture change needed

UK’s alcohol policy has been the frequent subject of many discussions since President Capilouto addressed publicly that it was under review. Dr. Capilouto and I have extensively discussed the existing policy relative to other institutions across the country to determine which practices might suit our campus. I have consulted representatives from all over the Southeastern Conference and across the country to better understand the issues students face from both ends of the spectrum.

It is important to note a change in the policy would not alter the current drinking age of 21, of which 93 percent of students living on campus are below. However, as the university continues to revitalize our growing campus with new residential facilities, the university will have to examine certain policies to allow students particular freedoms.

If we are to encourage students to live in new, on-campus housing, then we must move past the assumption that everyone living on-campus is a freshman. Students should be afforded appropriate rights based on their rising age.

What, for instance should the policy be for a residential hall occupied completely by individuals under the legal drinking age? Such a policy allowing alcohol would serve no purpose as existing laws supersede it. Where a change in policy should be considered is in certain areas throughout campus where students, both young and old, could congregate responsibly in the presence of alcohol.

During the fall semester, an incident occurred in a popular student tailgating area resulting in several acts of misconduct. When asked by members of the media about the issue, I referenced the need for a change. Presently there are students developing “bad habits” as they venture off campus where there are no regulations and therefore no accountability for their actions.

I believe the isolated incident that resulted in a temporary tailgating ban this fall was the result of these bad habits migrating back to campus and escalating with individuals not associated with UK being introduced into the situation.

Would a “wet” campus provide an opportunity for students to be educated in proper behavior, while providing a safe environment to do so?

Yes, but that is with the inclination that students who are under the legal drinking age are going to follow the campus alcohol policy. If they choose not to follow it, the same issues will arise as they will once again migrate off campus.

Student safety has always been the number one priority of the president, the university and myself. Rest assured, this process is being done comprehensively rather than intuitively resting on our assumptions. That is why so many individuals are evaluating our existing policy, surveying our students and researching other schools’ practices.

If the university were to amend the policy, students must be willing and able to adapt to the regulations governing them. We as students must develop better practices individually and collectively, as safety should remain our main priority.

As we move toward the future, we must focus on protecting our fellow students and holding them accountable as members of the Wildcat family and Big Blue Nation.

Many individuals have made reference to the current policy forcing students off campus which in turn is resulting in questionable behavior. I frequently see students congregating in the Lexington community and the culture, rather than their environment, has dictated their actions.

I believe alcohol education and awareness is essential for young adults to learn how to acceptably behave in social settings. Unfortunately many students are currently developing bad practices in various social environments both on and off campus.

In an ideal world, we would not have to worry about an alcohol policy, but the reality is, we as students are at a pivotal stage in our lives as we transition into adulthood. It is at this time where some students can develop bad habits that they may carry with them throughout the remainder of their lives.

The situation is not as simple as wet or dry and to act on the notion that it is, is irresponsible. I believe the existing policy needs to be revised. The extent of that revision does not rest on either end of the spectrum, but somewhere in the middle. I am in favor of a policy which allows students the opportunity to congregate, while giving those students of the legal age the ability to consume alcohol responsibly.

The challenge will be creating a policy which students will adopt and that reflects the importance of safety and alcohol education; to do so would require a culture change for the student body.

In my research, I discovered a quote which I thought was very appropriate for this matter, “An accurate description of the problem is 90 percent of the solution.” So I ask, is the interest in a policy change for: students under the legal drinking age who are “forced” off-campus; students who can legally drink wishing to do so on campus; or in the interest of allowing all individuals the ability to congregate when alcohol is present?

I am pleased with the president in this process of evaluating the existing policy. I truly believe he has the best interest of all students at heart and will not take this decision lightly.

I welcome those of you wishing to share your thoughts on this issue with me by emailing me at president@uksga.org or stop by the student government office.

Stephen Bilas is the student government president. Email opinions@kykernel.com.