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SIUE now permitted to sell alcohol on campus. But will it?

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Southern Illinois University campuses are now allowed to sell alcohol, but don’t be looking for keggers on campus anytime soon.

The SIU Board of Trustees adopted a new alcohol policy Thursday to comply with a new state law that permitted each public university and community college to develop its own policy about allowing alcohol sales at campus events. Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the law in July, and each board of trustees was instructed to develop its own policy within six months.

The SIU board opted to widen its policy to allow each campus administration to make its own decision regarding the availability of alcohol at campus events.

“What the board of trustees did is incorporate the new language in the law into the board policy, because the board policy no longer aligned with the law,” said Rich Walker, SIUE interim vice chancellor for administration.

Previously the policy was “very narrow,” allowing alcohol to be served or purchased only at private events such as dinners or receptions. The new policy allows each campus at their own discretion to decide what alcohol availability will be on campus.

“The law allows it, now the campuses will decide if they want it,” Walker said.

The law allows it, now the campuses will decide if they want it.

Rich Walker, SIUE interim vice chancellor for administration

Under the SIU board policy, the chancellor’s office can authorize such an event in writing, and he is instructed to consider whether the event is student-related, appropriate and what proportion of attendees are likely to be 21 or older.

Even then, alcohol will only be permitted if consistent with existing laws and “when such use will not interfere with the decorum and academic environment of the university,” the policy states.

Primarily, the policy will allow alcohol sales at athletic events, which Carbondale administrators hope will boost attendance at football and basketball events, according to news reports.

In Edwardsville, Walker said they are discussing whether it would be advisable to sell it at some or all athletic and performing arts events.

“Do we really want to do it at every volleyball and baseball game?” he said. “Do you really want it at student recitals, or just at the intermission of an Arts & Issues event?”

If implemented, the revenue brought in from alcohol sales would have to cover its own costs, Walker said.

“For larger events, it could actually be a revenue source,” Walker said. “But I don’t think we can solve the state’s budget problems because we sell a beer at a basketball game.”

One area that would be affected: fermentation sciences, a class in the College of Arts and Science that allows students to work with the many items requiring fermentation for production, ranging from bread and cheese to penicillin. This change of policy would allow them to add alcoholic beverages to that curriculum, Walker said.

“That’s a well-sought skill in the world of craft brewers and small-batch fermenters,” Walker said. “But in order to produce something like that, you have to be able to taste it... We would not want to stand in the way of academics.”

The SIU policy reflects concerns expressed about mixing college and alcohol, with a lengthy preamble indicating the need to teach positive living, learning and working experiences for the university community and the importance of teaching about the health and safety risks of indulging in alcohol.

In fact, the policy begins with a focus on preventing alcohol abuse and intervening with assistance and, when necessary, disciplinary sanctions for underage drinking.

Walker said he expects the current policy on student drinking to remain in place: Students who live on campus and are 21 or older may have alcohol in their rooms, under specific limitations. “It will not be a nine-month spring break at SIUE,” Walker said.

Walker said while the conversation has begun on the new policy, there is no timeline for adopting such a policy or when alcohol sales might begin on campus.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald

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