Banning tailgate would be a step in the wrong direction

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October 7, 2008

12:16 AM

Late last week, word began to spread from offices in the Campus Center that the administration was considering a ban on Greek tailgates before home football games. According to Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Mark Constantine’s e-mail to a Flat Hat reporter, “There is no story, and there are no changes. What started as a discussion item turned into something much more than that.”
There may not be any changes, but there most definitely is a story. It’s a story that adds new chapters each year, as the administration slowly tries to squeeze the fraternities until they break. Perhaps the tailgate policy will never be implemented. Perhaps it was nothing more than a small discussion that got out of hand. But the fact that such a conversation ever took place, that the administration would ever actually consider banning tailgates, raises serious questions about the judgment — and, I hate to say, sanity — of the individuals who control Greek life, alcohol policy and other important aspects of the campus power structure.

Let’s start with the basics. One of the suggestions was to get rid of the traditional tailgating spots on Harrison Street behind the fraternity complex, and instead establish a Greek-wide social event on Frat Field during Homecoming festivities, with a third-party vendor serving beer or wine. Such a potential change was suggested because, as the story goes, the administration was upset with the amount of trash and debris generated from tailgates.

By their logic, Harrison Street — which looks like a hurricane swept through it after a full day of tailgating — would be an unpleasant sight for alumni and would reflect badly on both the College of William and Mary and the state of Virginia.

That is ridiculous. While I have zero doubt that this garbage logic (pun intended) simply serves to cover up the main reason for the suggestion — avoiding underage drinking — there are countless ways to resolve the trash issue without banning tailgates. The administration could set a deadline, for example, for when each tailgating spot had to be cleaned up and fine organizations that did not comply.

Another shocking tidbit of this story is that the administration was apparently considering giving this policy its trial run during this year’s Homecoming. With the College strapped for cash, in a terrible economy and facing state budget cuts, can you think of anything that would irritate Greek alumni more than banning tailgates?

Many alumni, particularly younger folks, look forward to returning to campus to be with their old friends and relive their College experiences. Ideally, the College should want their money. Why they would even consider such a policy — which would do little more than antagonize our greatest financial asset — is mind-boggling.

Furthermore, the idea that banning tailgates — or even limiting them in some way — would reduce underage drinking is borderline comical. If students are not allowed to drink responsibly in the open, where police can walk around and ensure that things are not out of control, they will instead venture into the units of the fraternity complex and drink behind closed doors. This raises the likelihood of alcohol poisoning and sexual assault, which have sadly been the most noticeable externalities of the College’s approach to alcohol policy over the last several years.

Then, there’s the simple matter of principle. I never thought I would write this in a column, but here goes:
This is America. People tailgate before football games. It is a simple fact. Is it so impossible to treat students here like students are treated at every other university in the country? We may be exceptional in some respects, but is it that absurd of an idea to let us be normal once in a while?
Of all the possible changes the College could make to the already harmful and self-defeating alcohol policy, particularly with regard to the fraternities, this is one of the worst that I could possibly imagine.

Constantine says the policy will not be changed. I hope he’s right.

Alexander Ely is a senior at the College.

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