MSA does not support social host ordinance

The Minnesota Student Association voted Tuesday not to support a proposed ordinance in Minneapolis.

by Danielle Nordine

The Minnesota Student Association voted Tuesday not to support a proposed ordinance in Minneapolis that would make it a misdemeanor to host a party where the host âÄúknows or reasonably should knowâÄù underage drinking is occurring. The vote came after a lengthy debate at the MSA meeting and a question-and-answer session with Robin Garwood, policy aide to Ward 2 City Councilman Cam Gordon, who proposed the ordinance. The Minneapolis City Council will be holding public hearings on the ordinance Feb. 3. If passed, the misdemeanor crime would be punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $700 fine. A similar ordinance went into effect last month in St. Paul. In 2007, Chaska became the first Minnesota city to pass a social hosting ordinance, and now at least 18 cities have similar policies. âÄúRight now, the police have too little authority in this kind of situation, and the current laws are difficult to enforce,âÄù Garwood said at the meeting. âÄúI think the expectation is reasonable that people would be monitoring their own events.âÄù If a roommate hosts a party while another person is gone or is unaware that underage drinking is occurring, they will not be held responsible under the ordinance, Garwood said. MSA members cited multiple issues with the ordinance, including giving too much leeway to police, the fact that violation of the ordinance would lead to a misdemeanor and that punishing the party host doesnâÄôt fix the issue of underage drinking. âÄúThis doesnâÄôt completely address the issue, because the problem is more with drinking and not the age of the person,âÄù said MSA member Andrew Heairet. âÄúAnd there are also too many extenuating circumstances. The ordinance needs some work.âÄù Heairet, a chemistry junior, said despite his concerns, he was expecting MSA to vote in support of the ordinance. âÄúMSA wants to do whatâÄôs best for the students, and if this ordinance does pass and it helps deter underage drinking, thatâÄôs good at least,âÄù he said. The proposed MSA position statement was put forward by MSA member Paul Buchel, who is also the legislative affairs committee chair. âÄúIt was really about awareness,âÄù Buchel said. âÄúWe wanted to let students know about this ordinance, so if it does pass, students arenâÄôt getting busted and not even knowing about the ordinance.âÄù Buchel said he was expecting reaction to MSAâÄôs proposed support to be negative but didnâÄôt expect such extensive arguments against the ordinance. MSA plans to send the results of the vote to Gordon and the University of Minnesota as well as a list of concerns brought up at the meeting. MSA also plans to keep students updated on the progress of the ordinance, he said. The fact that MSA is not supporting the ordinance will not likely change the position of Gordon, Garwood said, but the arguments students brought up at the meeting will be taken into consideration and could take the form of amendments to the ordinance. âÄúThe public hearing will really be the formal leverage point,âÄù he said. âÄúWe have different constituencies with different opinions, and weâÄôll take them into account.âÄù