Northrop should stay free of alcohol sales

Today, the Board of Regents will vote on a one-year exemption of the University policy banning alcohol sales on campus. University President Mark Yudof supports the proposal, which exempts only Northrop Auditorium from the policy. It is estimated the plan would garner up to $100,000 per year to be used for the renovation of Northrop Auditorium.
Ultimately, allowing Northrop Auditorium to serve liquor would be a mistake. The campus should be a place where people of all ages feel welcome, and the University should not encourage alcohol consumption by the student population.
Although changing the policy would raise some money, $100,000 is only a drop in the bucket when compared to Northrop’s total renovation costs, estimated at $20 million. The money that could be raised by changing the policy is the main argument offered by proponents of the plan, but the tiny amount raised is simply not worth the costs.
If approved, the exemption would allow Northrop to sell beer and wine at events targeted at audiences of legal drinking age for a one-year trial period. The distribution of alcohol would follow a one-person, one-ID and one-beverage policy to limit both underage drinking and binge drinking. However, it is unlikely that Northrop could completely eliminate underage drinking without banning individuals under 21 from attending events where liquor would be served. In fact, last year University officials encouraged local businesses to completely refuse admission to underage individuals at events where alcohol would be available.
Since entirely eliminating underage drinking would be nearly impossible, the University would be placed in a difficult position; either risk the possibility of allowing underage individuals access to alcohol or not allow many University students to attend some events held on campus simply so liquor can be sold.
Selling alcohol in Northrop would also likely increase cleaning and maintenance costs as spills and stains would begin to appear all over the building. The general atmosphere of the venue would also drastically change. Currently, the alcohol-free environment makes for enjoyable performances of all kinds, but serving liquor will add in a mixture of individuals unable to control their drinking, causing a less-enjoyable setting for others.
The University has many programs dedicated to decreasing the use of alcohol by University students. One campaign tries to teach students that liquor is not a necessity for having a good time. Serving liquor at Northrop undermines this message by suggesting that some performances are not as enjoyable without the availability of liquor. The University certainly cannot eliminate all the outside influences that cause pressure on students to drink, but it can certainly avoid creating its own pressure.
Northrop Auditorium is a mid-size venue that should serve both the University and the larger community as a place to see cultural events of all types. If Northrop begins to serves alcohol, it will adversely affect Northrop’s ability to serve the University community. The regents should reject the proposal and keep both Northrop and the entire University campus free of alcohol sales.