Alcohol ban at student tailgate lifted

By Becca Clemons

[email protected]

In a campuswide email sent Friday morning, UK President Eli Capilouto and Student Government President Stephen Bilas announced the ban on alcohol at tailgates off a certain area of Cooper Drive has been lifted.

The ban was enacted before UK’s home game against South Carolina last weekend, because of the behavior of a “small number of people” before and after the football game against Western Kentucky on Sept. 15. The affected area was the non-reserved tailgate space along Cooper Drive between Sports Center Drive and University Drive. UK also had banned DJs and live bands in the area.

Last weekend, the student tailgating area known as The Bowl was empty for the first time in a long time during the hours leading up to the South Carolina game.

The presidents said they hoped a message about safety had been sent, and “we want all students and the broader community to enjoy our campus and the positive tradition associated with tailgating at UK.”

Bilas said at a news conference Friday that students have showed initiative in finding ways to have fun responsibly, and that among his duties is to find a middle ground among students and university and safety officials.

UK Police Chief Joe Monroe said the university is aiming to “change the culture of tailgating.” UK spokesman Jay Blanton said officials are working to develop a long-term plan for tailgating.

“I think it was a loud minority to a certain extent” who caused the problems at the Western Kentucky game, Bilas said. He said the university has to address how to have a safe environment and cut down on “a large population of people in a contained area.”

“It’s a culture change,” Bilas said. “We as upperclassmen have to teach the incoming students how to act and how to behave.”

He added that he wants students to understand that a police presence at tailgating is a “safety-first initiative, rather than enforcement.”

Monroe said law enforcement will have same presence it usually has at football tailgates, and the focus has turned to finding a long-term plan.

Bilas said he sent a memo to all Southeastern Conference student body presidents to find best practices for tailgating safely.

UK plays Mississippi State on Saturday at 12:21 p.m.

Read the full email below:

Colleagues and Students,

In response to serious safety issues that occurred before and during the recent game with Western Kentucky University, the University made the decision to impose restrictions on tailgating along a narrow area of Cooper Drive during last week’s football game. Some of the behavior that had escalated in this area in recent weeks compromised the safety of our students, safety officers, and the broader UK community.

As safety is ― and must be — our first priority, we hope an important message about the primacy of safety and the importance of appropriate behavior has been sent. At the same time, however, we want all students and the broader community to enjoy our campus and the positive tradition associated with tailgating at UK.

In an effort to move forward in a constructive and collaborative way, the two of us have met and discussed ― along with student affairs officials and safety officers ― how to best proceed with this matter. As a result of consulting with student leaders across campus and safety officials at the university and the city, the restrictions on tailgating along Cooper Drive between University and Sports Center Drive that had previously been imposed for this Saturday’s game are being lifted. We are taking additional steps to ensure a safe and secure environment so that the tradition of tailgating can continue this weekend and, we hope, going forward for the rest of the season.

Moreover, we are committed over the next week to further engage in discussions and strategy with respect to a long-term plan for how tailgating can and should best proceed in this area. We hope to have a firm plan for how to ensure an enjoyable, responsible, and safe environment ― one where students play an important leadership role ― for Homecoming later this month as well as future tailgating.

We both want to thank other student and university leaders, as well as safety officials, who are working collaboratively on addressing these issues as we all work toward the same goal ― a fun, safe and responsible environment that everyone can enjoy.

Thank you.

Eli Capilouto                         Stephen Bilas

President                               President

University of Kentucky       UK Student Government