By RICH TADDONIO
A new alcohol policy has gone into effect this academic year at UT, allowing students who are 21 and over to drink only in their dorm bedrooms, or a designated area, consequently eliminating wet dorms and dry dorms on campus.
The policy was changed as a result of a review on the process of student conduct, said Tim Nelson, the director of student conduct.
“Each year we intend to better our practice and look at best practices for the field of Student Conduct,” Nelson said. “In this particular instance, with the removal of wet and dry residence halls we felt that it would be best practice to mirror society and reflect that if you are 21 years of age you have the right to consume alcohol in moderation regardless of your housing assignment.”
This new freedom, however, comes with new restrictions.
Alcohol is never permitted to be stored or consumed in common rooms, Nelson said.
Another restriction, one that is not addressed in the resident life guidelines or the code of conduct, is a bit more complex.
Spencer Hubbard, a resident assistant in Brevard Hall and a double major in public relations and theatre, explained that while students who are of legal drinking age may drink in their bedrooms with an underage roommate or suitemate present, they must stop all drinking if another underage resident enters who does not live in that room.
Hubbard said that explaining this to his residents caused immediate confusion.
Not only are students confused, but Hubbard also said that RAs are having trouble enforcing the new policy. While he appreciates the effort, he is not convinced that policymakers did all they could with enforcing the new policy.
“I can see what they were trying to do, but I don’t think they executed it well,” Hubbard said.
Not all students have problems with the new policy. Senior painting major and Brevard RA Lindsy Tortorice, said that, along with her, most of the people she knows seem to like the new rule.
“If I can go to a store or bar and legally purchase alcohol, why shouldn’t I be able to have it where I live,” Tortorice asked. “I am definitely for it; there are a lot of restrictions though.”
One of the restrictions Tortorice mentioned was the rule that the alcohol can only be kept and consumed in the resident’s bedroom. Some students are concerned that this restriction encourages students to drink alone.
Although drinking alone does not necessarily label a person with a drinking problem, according to alcoholrehab.com, it is an activity that can predict future dependency on substances and a higher tolerance of alcohol. Drinking alone can also be sign of self-medication.
“Self-medicating with alcohol or any other substance can lead to a more serious and harmful problem with alcohol,” the website states.
Some students have speculated that the change comes at an interesting time, with the new smoking policy and changes in the housing assignment process going into effect this year as well.
“It’s definitely a bit of a compromise, with the new housing policy and all,” said Dom Talarico, a sophomore finance major.
However, according to Nelson, the decision was made solely based on the review of the conduct process by a committee of students, faculty and staff that took place between February and April this year.
Gina Firth, the assistant director of health and wellness, said that it is simply a coincidence that the smoking policy and the alcohol policy changed around the same time.
“The [new policies] were completely unrelated,” Firth said. “The smoking policy was a six-year process that was incrementally put in place. The final decision that it was time to go smoke free was made during fall 2015.”
Rich Taddonio can be reached at email@example.com.