Should campuses create safe spaces for alcohol?

Photo by Blake Israel

Originally opening its doors in the early 1970s, the Tech Student Center has since continued to be a dynamic and important part of campus life. After extensive development, the Student Center reopened its doors this summer to students. With a bowling alley, an assortment of restaurants and a newly furnished student organizations hub, the Student Center is quickly becoming a central location for student activities
on campus.

However, in light of this, the conversation of whether there should be campus-sanctioned spaces for alcohol — especially in the Student Center — is increasingly moving to the forefront. The idea of having a bar on or near campus is definitely not a new one but the possibility of capitalizing on the relative newness of the Student Center has pushed the issue into the spotlight. We, at the Technique, personally do not believe that having a bar in the Student Center is the correct course of action for managing alcohol consumption at Tech. While we recognize that there is a need for a safe space for students to consume alcohol, especially due to the lack of a college town environment around Tech, we do not believe that the Student Center is the best place for such a space for a few reasons.

First, the Student Center represents Tech in many ways. From potential students touring the campus to a high possibility of alumni traffic, for many people the Student Center is a big part of what they will remember from the campus. While alcohol is not inherently bad, its presence in an area that is advertised as a hub for student life may be off-putting for potential students and returning alumni.

Second, the addition of a bar into the Student Center further perpetuates the connection between having a social life in college and having to drink. Many avenues of college social life, such as Greek life, are already heavily intertwined with drinking. By introducing alcohol in an area of campus that is supposed to be a center for social life, the idea that sobriety and socializing cannot coexist is further pushed. 

Third, the necessary restrictions that would be placed on alcohol in the Student Center would most likely push students to simply pursue other avenue of drinking — defeating the entire purpose of having a campus-sanctioned space for alcohol consumption. For example, if prices were raised to discourage excessive drinking, students would probably turn to liquor stores or off-campus establishments.

Rather than trying to create spaces on campus for alcohol, we encourage the Institute to take steps to change the culture around alcohol. We believe that one of the best ways to do this would be to use community-based programming to change the conversation around drinking. By painting RAs and faculty as a resource for alcohol poisoning, having better education about Good Samaritan laws and more discussions about ways to say no to drinking, the dangers of drinking can be minimized. 

Furthermore, while we believe a bar on campus would be a bad idea, we encourage the addition of establishments that serve alcohol in Tech Square. By doing this, we hope students will be able to drink closer to campus which would consequently prevent drunk driving and walking long distances intoxicated. Moreover, having an establishment in Tech Square would mean that it would be more closely patrolled by GTPD, rather than the Atlanta Police Department, ensuring that the area is safer for Tech students at night and minimizing legal consequences that may prevent students from seeking help.

By focusing on the current culture of alcohol and working to address currently prevalent issues around it, we believe that Tech could foster a much safer environment for its student body by working towards making spaces where students are already drinking safer.