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Alcohol in the University Center could have positive impact on drinking culture


April 27, 2017

Students who voted in the Student Government Association election this semester were given the chance to weigh in on whether they would support the sale of alcohol in the University Center. We think it’s a great idea.

Imagine heading to Pete’s Creek and having some wine with your spaghetti or a beer with your chicken strips. We could even support local businesses by serving Rush River brews, like the Falls Theatre does downtown.

When someone is not 21 or not into the bar scene, it can feel awkward trying to hang out with people who are. If alcohol was available in small amounts in a safe environment on campus, we could all spend time in a same space with no pressure. We could get past this divide between the drinkers and the non-drinkers.

This wouldn’t be the first time alcohol was served on the UW-River Falls campus. The basement of Hagestad Hall used to hold a bar, which closed when the drinking age in Wisconsin was changed to 21.

There are a lot of specifics that remain unclear. We don’t know what this would cost the university, how risk analysis would be assessed or how competition with other establishments would play out. Still, it’s worth exploring.

Of course, a stereotype exists regarding college students and alcohol. Film and television depictions show us as massive binge drinkers, out partying every weekend. That may be true for some, but it isn’t the reality for others. Our perception of alcohol could become more positive if it was exposed to us in other settings, like on campus.

Regardless of whether the stereotype is true, the drinking culture on our campus and elsewhere is one that has an unhealthy focus on binge drinking and bar hopping. According to the most recent American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment in 2015, 28 percent of UWRF students reported having five or more drinks in one sitting in the past two weeks. Additionally, the 2017 River Falls Bar Crawl just happened on April 22, where the unspoken goal is to have a drink at every bar – 11 drinks total.

Potential exists for a shift away from this culture. If we can get alcohol in the UC, those who really do only want to have “a” drink will be able to do so without feeling pressure to be in an environment where they feel unsafe. Many college students drink, so why not let them do it safely?