Lehigh has started to experiment with the implementation of open bars at on-campus events, with a definitive ruling to come after an official vote Sept. 22.
Last year, Senate hosted the Gatsby Gala, the first university-sponsored event at which alcohol was served. Allowing alcohol at on-campus events like this can give students the opportunity to socialize on campus and get involved with university organizations.
Aislinn Strohecker, ’18, is a member of Student Senate who was involved in the planning and execution of the Gatsby Gala last spring.
“We were thrilled that those who did drink were responsible and there weren’t any incidents,” Strohecker said. “Even though students under 21 couldn’t drink, it was a great example of how someone can have a good time, drink and be responsible. And while it was huge for us to have alcohol at the event, it wasn’t the main reason that students came or why they had a good time.”
The Gatsby Gala was part of Lehigh’s pilot program in which student groups are using portions of their Senate funds to purchase alcohol for pre-approved events.
The pilot program was sparked by requests from student organizations to have alcohol at campus events. Staff members from offices such as the Office of General Counsel, Risk Management, Conference Services, Auxiliary Services, Student Activities, Student Center Facilities and the Dean of Students Office met to discuss this as a possibility.
As of right now, fraternities are the only groups on campus that are allowed to have events with alcohol. It was a goal of the pilot program to expand this privilege to other campus groups to create a more inclusive setting.
Another goal of the pilot program was to enforce safety and regulation of alcohol consumption. For example, there was a three drink limit imposed at the Gatsby Gala, which ensured that students of age could enjoy themselves while also being allowed to safely drink.
Anna D’Ginto, ’16, the president of Student Senate, said that Senate is supportive of the pilot program initiative.
“We are debating how to amend our bylaws so that student groups can have greater flexibility in using their Senate funds to purchase alcohol for pre-approved events,” she said.
At a school where much of the social scene that involves alcohol seems to be rapidly moving off campus into South Bethlehem, the approval of open bars at Lehigh-sponsored on-campus events is a potential way to begin to move Lehigh’s social scene back onto campus.
Lehigh’s administration can also look to University Productions for guidance if they choose to approve this proposal. University Productions is an on-campus student group that organizes concerts, comedy shows and other social events for Lehigh students. This past spring, University Productions started having open bars at some of their events.
University Productions originally encountered a few issues with getting the open bar to be a success, including having police presence and figuring out how to fund the open bars due to the fact that they couldn’t get funding from Lehigh.
“We can only serve alcohol at events on Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays in order to ensure that there is a police presence at the bar,” said Nadine Elsayed, the director of small events for University Productions. “We also only give out beer and wine at the bars and make sure that the police check IDs and give out distinct wristbands to 21 year olds.”
University Productions has been able to pay for these open bars through funding through Lamberton Hall’s budget, due to the fact that current rules do not allow student organizations to use their own budgets for alcohol. The experiences of University Productions can be used to structure future rules if it is voted for open bars to be allowed at Lehigh events.