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Central’s Alcohol Policies Do Not Define A ‘Dry Campus’

by Angela Fortuna

“CCSU is a dry campus,” according to multiple Central Connecticut Biennial Reports. However, the current alcohol policies do not require that alcohol is always prohibited on the campus premises. 

“I don’t tend to use that term [dry] because whenever I hear [it], it usually says to me that the campus doesn’t have liquor, which is just not true [at Central],” CCSU Chief Administrative Officer Richard Bachoo said. “I consider Central to have guidelines with the use of liquor. You just have to follow the guidelines.”

CCSU President Dr. Zulma Toro expressed a different view of the current policies.

“[Whether we are dry or not] depends on your definition of a dry campus. It’s a dry campus in the sense that we don’t have a public place where alcohol is served to the public. In that sense, yes, it’s a dry campus,” Dr. Toro said. “If you consider that we have special events for which we serve alcohol, not to underage students, then we’re not a dry campus.”

Due to budgetary concerns, there has been talk of transforming Hilltop Cafe to something that will be more economically beneficial for the university. In particular, Matthew Warshauer, a CCSU history professor, proposed a plan to create a pub inside Hilltop Cafe. According to Dr. Toro’s definition of a dry campus, this proposal would change Central’s “dry campus” status. 

“The space has become uneconomical for them to use for its current purposes,” Student Government Association President Brendan Kruh said.

“We are having some financial discrepancies in terms of food services at Hilltop Cafe because providing food services to students has increased significantly,” Dr. Toro said.

CCSU’s current contracted dining service, Sodexo, specifies which guidelines should be met in order for alcohol to be served at events. 

“The university’s Chief Administrative Officer, or designee, shall also designate the groups that may be served such beverages,” according to section 5.7.5 of the Management Contract of Dining Services Operation and Development.

“[Bachoo] is in charge of reviewing the requests for us to serve alcohol. He uses his best judgment in deciding whether to approve [events] or not in serving alcohol,” Dr. Toro said.

Even though Sodexo holds a liquor license, it is Bachoo who can decide which groups can serve alcohol at school-sponsored events.

In order for events where alcohol is served to be approved, students and faculty have to follow the guidelines and Student Activities and Leadership Development has to agree. As long as guidelines are followed, events where alcohol is served are typically approved, according to Bachoo.

“For the most part, we serve alcohol when we are having an event that includes people from the external community like donors or supporters of the university. Also, when we have receptions to celebrate accomplishments,” Dr. Toro said.

The Sodexo catering services director, Joan Leeper, stated that there are specific places where alcohol can be served on campus: Alumni Hall in the Student Center, Memorial Hall and the bar at tailgates for football games, in which only alumni can be served.

Leeper said that Sodexo requires identification for all students and faculty at events where alcohol is served. The area where alumni are served alcohol at tailgates is typically sectioned off to ensure no underage students are served.

While Sodexo takes steps to ensure no underage students are served at the bar during tailgates, the police enforcement is not as strict in prevention, according to Bachoo.

“When you’re [students] tailgating, as long as you’re not causing a ruckus and bringing attention to yourself, people don’t really come over because there is a lot of other things going on,” Bachoo said. “The discretion is up to the police officers at the event. Tailgating is something we have as a way of life at the university so what goes on there is usually handled pretty well. I have not seen any issues regarding our tailgating.”

“[Tailgating] is a part of the university tradition and university life. I am very careful in following and complying with the laws and regulations and I will not support serving alcohol to underage students,” Dr. Toro said.

Over the years, the increase in the national drinking age to 21 has affected the university’s tolerance to alcohol consumption in the residence halls.

“Because of the [contract with the food service], I wouldn’t say that the whole campus is dry. In the residence halls, that’s another thing,” CCSU Residence Life Director Jean Alicandro said. “It’s bigger than me. The policy itself is something we have to uphold, and we do our best at it.”

The no-tolerance alcohol policies in the dorms at Central have been in place for nearly four decades, according to Bachoo.

“When I first went to college in Connecticut, in the early 1980s, the drinking age was different. As the drinking age has changed, these rules have come into play,” Bachoo said. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve had restrictions on the use of alcohol. I think all campuses have moved that way, to a degree.”

Alicandro does not think that changing alcohol policies in the residence halls will change students’ behaviors.

“I don’t think that making alcohol available in the halls a policy is going to put us in a situation where it’s going to change behaviors because if people want to drink, they’ll figure out how to drink off campus or wherever they decide they’re going to drink,” Alicandro said.

Kruh mentioned that there was another proposal earlier in the fiscal year to try and combat economical issues.

“Prior to this proposal, they were originally planning to put a pub-style food service on the southeast side of Memorial Hall, where the current study lounge area is. It was supposed to serve wings and [alcoholic beverages] and people were going to go in there to do their homework and things like that,” Kruh said.

Kruh continued to explain why the plan was denied and why such an idea concerns the university.

“One of the reasons why it wasn’t put in [place] was because of accessibility. They were saying Hilltop might be a more viable option because Kaiser Lot is right there,” Kruh said. “The persisting concerns seems to be liability as number one. Number two seems to be getting enough people for there to be a consistent revenue stream and number three is certainly competition with local bars.”

The recently proposed plan is just in its beginning stages and could take years to enact if the plan were to pass, according to Kruh.

“This will have to go through a lot of conversations from the students, faculty and staff,” Dr. Toro said. “For me, as president, depending on what the final recommendation is that comes from the university community, I go to the president of the university system [Mark Ojakian] and present the proposal to him and see if this is viable. He [Ojakian] will then talk to the Board of Regents.”

Kruh and Carbone believes the proposal will not satisfy the financial needs of the university.

“It’s just finagling with administrators and with faculty to see if it’d [the plan] be something that would be economical for sustainability purposes,” Kruh said.

“Teachers, too, want a space to hang out. [CCSU is] trying to make it something that would fit a lot of people’s desires,” Jamie Carbone, SGA senator and member of the Food Service Committee, said.

“There would be a benefit of students meeting and having a beer with their professor if they are of age,” Kruh said.

Although the plan would bring great changes to the university, it is not yet set in stone, as it has to go through a long process to get approved.

“It’s not only about being financially beneficial, that’s one element. If this is something that will enrich the campus life and make the education experience at Central better, more enjoyable for students, will help in developing a stronger sense of community as a family, then I will endorse it. But it has to fulfill all those expectations,” Dr. Toro said. “I cannot say it will happen or will not happen, but we will open the proposal to consideration within the whole campus community.”

“It’s a proposal. It’s just in its very beginning stages,” Carbone said.

The alcohol policies at Central are reviewed every two years, unless there is a reason to review them more frequently, according to Bachoo.

“It hasn’t come to a point where discussion for a change is yet necessary. The guidelines have to be signed off by myself and the president of the university,” Bachoo said. “But anything can change.”

It is important to get involved in voicing your concerns and opinions regarding the university’s alcohol policies, according to Alicandro.

“We’re always trying to educate students to prevent alcohol situations from occurring,” Alicandro said. “Everything is always up for discussion and review. [CCSU is] always open-minded about hearing other alternatives. As it exists now, it’s hard for me to say [what could happen].”