UCS aims to bring kegs back on campus

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Some students are seeking to restore what many consider an icon of college life after its absence from campus for over a decade. The Undergraduate Council of Students will introduce a resolution today calling for the University to lift the ban on kegs and instead regulate their use on campus.

Kegs were banned from campus during the 1990-91 academic year, according to Robin Rose, current director of leadership programs and former dean of campus life.

Brian Bidadi ’06, chair of the UCS Admission and Student Services committee, said a draft resolution calling for an end to the ban will be introduced at the UCS meeting tonight and will be debated and voted on Feb. 23. A question about the ban on kegs has been included in the WebCT poll accompanying the instant runoff voting referendum this week.

The resolution cites several arguments for allowing kegs on campus, including their lower cost versus canned beer and the environmental benefits of drinkers using one cup versus many cans of beer.

The resolution calls for “the University to investigate methods of facilitating safe social events … while giving students the freedom and responsibility of making wise, individual life decisions.” It specifically mentions measures such as marking students’ hands each time they receive a drink from a keg and using a standard 12-ounce cup size to help students keep track of the number of drinks they consume.

Frances Mantak, director of health education, said there are legitimate health concerns about the use of kegs “because of the way the beer is provided.” She cited the practice of “topping off” a cup as a way students could lose track of the number of drinks they had consumed, and named “keg stands” as a risky behavior that could lead to alcohol poisoning.

Mantak said her main concern was that students would feel the need to finish off a keg at the end of a party, leading to greater and perhaps unsafe alcohol consumption.

Rose said concern about students losing track of their alcohol consumption when drinking from kegs was the main force behind the ban.

Kegs are “unsafe,” Mantak said, and are “banned or closely regulated at most college campuses.”

Bidadi argued that even though kegs have remained available at off-campus parties not regulated by the University, no Brown student has ever died of alcohol-related causes, which he attributed in part to the work of Brown Emergency Medical Services.

He also said concerns about kegs representing a source of cheap bulk alcohol, which experts say is linked to binge drinking and alcohol poisoning, are moot in the face of University regulations allowing registered parties to serve punch up to 80 proof, equivalent to many hard liquors.

“It’s almost hypocritical of the administration to allow one and not the other,” Bidadi said. The resolution text notes that “students have been responsible enough to function even in the face of” easily available high-proof punch.

Chris Guhin ’05, chair of the Greek Council, agreed that kegs should be allowed on campus, though he said the University would be justified in regulating kegs, perhaps by only allowing them at registered social events.

“The Greek Council would like the freedom to use kegs during our parties,” he said, calling it “mostly a value (and) convenience issue,” as kegs are cheaper and easier to transport than many cans of beer.

But one administrator appeared skeptical of the efforts to lift the ban on kegs.

“It’s hard for me to imagine compelling arguments for reintroducing kegs to campus,” said David Greene, vice president for campus life and student services. Greene said he had not yet seen the UCS resolution, but that the issue will probably be handled by a new subcommittee currently being formed from the Campus Life Advisory Board “to look at our alcohol policies” in general.

But “the overriding priority (in any discussion) would be the safety of students on campus,” Greene said.

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