Last weekend, College Houses hosted their annual house crawl. This time, however, something was noticeably different: there was less alcohol.
Though the College’s policy regarding parties has not changed since last year, the volume of alcohol allowed at College House events has been reduced. In prior years, College Houses were allowed to register two 15.5-gallon kegs for parties; now they are limited to half a keg, unless they partner with another campus organization.
According to Stephanie Patterson, associate director of residential education and residential life, the change was made to better reflect the attendance at College House parties and relieve risks residents face during such events.
“For the most part, what I’m hearing is that it’s first- and second-year students that are predominantly at College House parties,” said Patterson. “So the idea is that having that half-keg limit, [will] hopefully eliminate some risk, taking the pressure off of students to feel the need to provide this alcohol.”
Patterson also hopes that this new policy will encourage College Houses to collaborate with other organizations when planning events.
“The idea is also that if [College Houses] are going to collaborate with another organization, whether it be [Bowdoin Student Government] or [Asian Students Alliance], that group is likely to have a higher amount of 21-year-olds as a part of that group, so they’re able to register more alcohol,” says Patterson.
The impact of this reduction was already apparent last weekend. House residents noted that they ran out of alcohol faster than expected, with most Houses running dry by 10 p.m.. Many College House residents have serious concerns about the future implications of this new rule.
Patrick Bloniasz ’22, programming co-chair of MacMillan House, believes that the new policy will further decrease attendance at College House parties.
“The draw of having alcohol, compared to whether or not it’s actually there, is the reason a lot of people get in the space. It’s how intentional you are about planning the party, like the theme or whatever it is, that makes people stay,” said Bloniasz. “So I think [raising] attendance to those parties is going to be very difficult.”
Low attendance, however, pales in comparison to what others fear might occur under these new regulations: the increase in the consumption of hard alcohol instead of beer.
“I frankly think that it’s almost unsafe to allow such a little amount of registered alcohol because obviously, in an ideal world only certain people—those over 21—would drink,” said Kate Walsh ’22, co-chair of Helmreich House. “But we know that’s not how it necessarily works in the real world.”
College House residents believe that this new policy creates a potentially dangerous situation for students.
“What I would assume, once it consistently happens that these College Houses are running out of alcohol so early in the night, is that people are going to go back to their dorms, drink[ing] more alcohol—particularly hard alcohol—then com[ing] back,” said Walsh. “This is more unsafe, because we’re not having people who are trained E-Hosts and A-Hosts regulating what people are drinking.”
“I think being able to provide [people] with beer, which is like 4.5 percent alcohol content [at College Houses] is much better than going off-campus where things like rum and vodka are freely being passed around,” said Bloniasz. “From a safety point of view, I think that they missed the mark in terms of actually putting in policies that work. I don’t think parties are going to die out. In my personal opinion, I think they’re just going to get smaller and further off-campus.”
Despite these concerns, Patterson does not anticipate a dramatic shift in the campus’s social scene. She doesn’t believe that alcohol plays as important of a role in social life as people claim.
“I’m not disconnected enough to not know that people are choosing to drink and that it’s a part of their social life. But ultimately, it should [only] be a part of your social life and not be your entire social life. I will always argue for them to think about what it is that’s making your event fun. How is it that you’re expecting people to engage?” said Patterson. “If alcohol is your only answer, go back to the drawing board.”
Patterson admits that there may be some pushback to the new policies in the beginning, but she says she only has the students’ best interests in mind.
“The goal is to not be the fun police. But ultimately, I will always toe the line that my expectation is that you’re following the law,” says Patterson. “I’m 100 percent willing to hear those things in areas where I can make changes …. So, if something doesn’t work, I’m not the person that says it’s set in stone and we can’t change it.”