In wake of the University of New Brunswick’s proposed alcohol policy in late January, students and staff have begun to discuss the issue of drinking on campus. But when it comes to labelling the current situation as a problem, there’s disagreement.
The policy proposed would limit alcohol sales on campus to two drinks per person, effectively banning popular options such as pitchers. The policy was met with pushback from the UNB Student Union and many students on campus.
Have specific on-campus problems relating to alcohol pushed UNB to propose the changes?
Don Allen, director of security and traffic and member of the committee reviewing the alcohol policy, said that’s not the case.
“It’s a policy that’s always been there, but it’s time to review these every once in a while,” Allen said. “I think that’s it; I don’t think there was anything that triggered this specific review, it was just time to look at the policies and make sure they were up to date.”
Allen said campus security deals with hospitalizations, fights and other incidents related to alcohol, but he doesn’t think it’s out of the ordinary.
“I think it would be fairly standard for most university campuses to have that, especially one where there's a bar on the campus,” he told The Brunswickan.
Students on campus strongly reject the idea that there’s a problem with the current regulations.
“I think it’s a little silly considering everyone is an adult, and they should be able to drink responsibly,” said third-year engineering student Caelan MacDonald.
MacDonald said UNB should simply comply with Fredericton’s drinking laws instead of imposing further restrictions on students.
Fourth-year business student Luke Walker has lived both on-campus in Neill House and off-campus on Albert Street.
“I think it’s stupid myself, everybody loves pitchers,” he said.
Walker said patrons at the Cellar Pub or College Hill Social Club are adults who need to be responsible for themselves.
As for his experience with fights or alcohol-related injuries or sickness, Walker laughed and recalled an incident that occurred just last week.
“We were walking out of Jack’s Pizza and somebody just sucker-punched my buddy and a big brawl broke out,” he said, noting it was off-campus. “That’s the only fight I’ve been a part of in my university experience.”
Student Services staff say alcohol is harming student health. Contrary to others saying the proposed alcohol policy is a standard update of procedures, Counselling Services has indicated that alcohol is a recurring problem within the student body, causing both mental and physical health problems.
Residence Life also expressed concern about the number of incidents they’ve experienced this school year.
“For the period of September 2018 to March 2019, there were 94 incidents of Community Standard Violation sanctions issued where the student was identified as intoxicated at the time of the violation. With these stats in mind, we are motivated to support the work of the Alcohol Policy Working Group, who aim to develop a policy to reduce alcohol related harms on campus,” said Angela Garnett, senior director of Residence Life.
How should the issue of drinking on campus best be addressed? Proposed changes to the alcohol policy may push students off-campus where there are fewer support systems available to them, yet several UNB departments recognize how alcohol exacerbates student issues and believe the revised alcohol policy presents a way forward. Others believe alcohol consumption and related issues are simply a feature of the university experience.
“I myself, many years ago, was a university student and have seen similar things in my day,” Allen said.