Should Eastern Be a Dry Campus?

“Yes”

First, let’s get on the same page about vocabulary. According to Project Know, a website focused on addiction recovery,  “[T]he term ‘dry campus’ refers to a campus where the consumption of alcohol on school property is wholly prohibited, regardless of whether individuals are of legal drinking age. This is contrasted with ‘wet’ campuses, which permit consuming alcohol and are subject to individual campus rules on alcohol use.” 

When discussing the matter of any college as a dry or wet campus, the first mistake we make is assuming it’s a strict binary and not a spectrum. Just as Eastern is a marijuana-free campus in theory, in practice, we’ve all walked down a hallway and been hit with a nasty surprise. Like it or not, some students are going to defy policy, which makes the question of “what is a dry campus?” somewhat convoluted. 

The culture of the university will often define where on that spectrum of dry to wet a campus is. For example, if Brigham Young University suddenly changed student policy to allow drinking, I doubt its student population would be lining up at the liquor store. The culture is enacted by the people and merely reinforced and shaped by policies. 

Similarly, Eastern University is, on paper, a dry campus, but this doesn’t mean its students don’t drink. What this dry campus policy really does is push student drinking—at least somewhat—off-campus, and place the legal consequences for the drinking into the hands of other parties. The liability for underage drinking, for example, is pushed off onto businesses that have the responsibility to ID their patrons. 

So now for the question: should Eastern be a dry campus? And the answer to that question is also complicated. One factor might be insurance rates—if a college allows drinking on campus, they may have to pay a higher insurance premium, which could raise costs across the board. Another factor might be what cultures will interact with alcohol in what ways. We should consider that not every student has positive models for what responsible alcohol consumption looks like.

What happens when students who would go off-campus to party bring the party here? Are we prepared for how that will impact students across the board? Allowing alcohol carte blanche might cause a sudden influx of students who before had had no access or desire to experiment with alcohol to be placed in high-pressure situations. A wet campus with no restrictions is ultimately good for no one. What might be needed isn’t the full array of liberty, but a responsible middle-ground.

“No”

There are plenty of opinions I have rooted in the Christian tradition that lead me to believe that having our Christian university be a wet campus could actually be a beneficial part of our Christian campus culture.

First off, I would like to address the theological approach I am taking to Eastern University specifically being a wet campus. On paper, Eastern is aligned with the American Baptist Churches, which generally tends to lean away from any sort of alcohol consumption. However, Eastern tends to focus more on its inter-denominational student and faculty body, choosing to align its views with the broader local church rather than the Baptist denomination.

The consumption of alcohol falls into the category of being a split church issue even within the Baptist denomination, although most of the collective denominations of churches tend to lean more towards being in favor of alcohol consumption.

With this theological issue thus settled for our particular university, I can now get into the specifics of what I mean by a “wet campus.” In my ideal view, a wet campus does not encourage alcoholism, drunkenness, party culture or underage drinking. As a Christian university, we have more of an opportunity to ensure and uphold responsible drinking practices. Biblical passages like Isaiah 5:11, Galatians 5:19-21 and Ephesians 5:18 clearly denounce drunkenness. 

Other passages, such as 1 Corinthians 9:27 or 1 Peter 5:8, talk about the importance of having control over your body and mind. Before allowing students to possess alcohol on campus, we can require that on-campus alcohol privileges can be revoked if multiple episodes of drunkenness occur. This goes against the “if they’re going to do it anyway just allow it” mentality that is harmful to the drinking culture on a lot of college campuses.

That same idea is what refutes any complaints about a wet campus encouraging underage drinking. Any wet campus must still hold to the law that possession of and/or drinking alcohol underage is illegal, thus waiving an argument of underage drinking being a problem if regulated correctly. 

An easy way to distinguish between what alcohol is allowed on campus would be to set up a system where students who are of age to drink must apply for permission to have alcohol on campus and register any alcohol they do have. Something as simple as putting an approval sticker on a bottle of wine or pack of beer can distinguish between approved and unapproved alcohol. 

This approval system also creates an opportunity for a required brief training program on safe drinking practices, perhaps even some discussion on biblical approaches to drinking, before allowing students to have alcohol on campus. 

Granted, a positive alcohol culture is entirely dependent upon an administration willing to uphold the rules necessary for this to happen. Ideally though, allowing Eastern to be a wet campus could allow the drinking experience to be greatly guided and influenced by Christian tradition and thought.

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