Social host ordinance gets it wrong

Another drinking ordinance will not make young adults more responsible.

Andrew Heairet

The civil unrest that often results from many college-aged studentsâÄô binge drinking and excessive consumption is problematic in the city of Minneapolis as well as in other college cities around the country. However, the proposed social host ordinance drafted by the Minneapolis City Council will not effectively address these problems. The ordinance makes it a misdemeanor (90 days in jail and/or a $700 fine) to host a party (three or more people gathered in one setting) on oneâÄôs property where minors may âÄúconsume or intend to consumeâÄù alcohol. These terms in the ordinance have no cut-and-dry definitions, leaving the application of the law up to a wide spectrum of personal interpretation. Misdemeanors are often grounds for termination of a residential lease with a landlord, which could mean that many University of Minnesota students could be evicted if they are found in violation of this ordinance. Such charges would also be in violation of the student code of conduct, which might ultimately lead to expulsion from the University. The restorative justice programs of Minneapolis that can help students remove charges from their criminal records have recently received significant budget cuts and thus would not be able to accommodate students convicted under this ordinance. It is illegal for a person over the age of 21 to directly supply alcohol to a person not of age, and no reasonable person would deny that these actions are wrong. However, this new ordinance would hold charges against residents who are simply aware of underage consumption on their property that carry the same legal severity as assault and fourth-degree driving under the influence. Admittedly, once party hosts start seeing criminal records, more underage students may be turned away from parties. However, this will not prevent them from drinking. They will simply find other places to drink, often less peer-supervised locations where emergency medical help may not be summoned as promptly if necessary. Even if this bill did completely eliminate all underage consumption, it still completely dismisses the true problems which concern neighboring citizens. They arenâÄôt outraged over the apparent age of drinkers but rather the stupid things that drunk people do while attending or shortly after leaving large, unruly parties. Minneapolis already has ordinances that can be enforced against people in these situations, including consumption in public, loitering with an open bottle, noise violations and the more severe public urination citations. They already have the tools needed to stop these problems. Minneapolis needs to step up enforcement on charges already on the books if they wish to âÄúclean up our neighborhoodsâÄù. Several other cities in Minnesota have already enacted similar ordinances, most of which have been fueled by tragic accidents that resulted from high school parties where alcohol was intentionally supplied to minors. Social host situations in our community are completely different situations. University students are not in high school. We are all adults, and itâÄôs time we take responsibility for our own actions. Excessive drinking and destructive decisions resulting from public intoxication have prompted city officials to propose completely illogical ordinances that misplace the legal responsibilities of studentsâÄô actions on their peers. Students need to know when enough is enough or seek professional help. Otherwise, officials see no other option than to give seemingly unilateral power to law enforcement to stop this behavior. I urge students to be more responsible with their friends but to also show dissent regarding this outrageous ordinance at the council meeting at 1:30 p.m. this Wednesday at Minneapolis City Hall. ItâÄôs up to us to make college an enjoyable experience for ourselves and to be respectful to our neighbors. Andrew Heairet, University undergraduate student