Looking Back: OU revised alcohol policy to allow closed-door drinking

Bridget Janis, Features Editor

Ringing in the new year can be full of new resolutions for a lot of people, but if someone under 21 has a goal to drink more alcohol in college, Oakland University has made that difficult to achieve. To kick off the new year in 1986, OU created a revised alcohol policy.

The new policy clearly stated that all students under 21 were prohibited from drinking in their dorms or anywhere else in the residence halls, and any and all floor parties, and pre-parties that happen before floor parties were not allowed.

The policy did allow students who were 21 to drink alcoholic beverages, but they had to be alone with their rooms or suite doors closed.  A quarter-keg permit could also be submitted to the housing office, which allowed a 21 year-old resident to have a quarter-keg in their room if the permit was submitted and approved 24 hours before.

“We were starting to experience some problems early last semester; discipline situations where alcohol was involved had started to increase,” said Eleanor Lewellen, Residence Halls director at the time. “This is when the Area Hall Committee put together ways to help students exercise control and encourage responsible drinking.”

When adding this policy, OU began to encourage any students with alcohol problems to join the Alcohol Awareness Committee and go to sponsored programs like Alcohol Awareness Week.

Some students began to express the new policy was a violation of their rights.

Linda Burdette, a resident at the time said, “I don’t drink, but drinking is legal at 21. If a person so chooses [to drink], they should have the right in the privacy of their own room.”

There were some students who saw the positive effects the policy would have.

“I think the policy is fair,” then resident Tom Ziska said. “If you have attained the age of 21, it doesn’t really matter whether the door is open or closed. It’s to keep the resident assistants from having to check I.D.s or determine who is drinking and who is not.”

The new policy ended up affecting students’ opportunity to drink on the bus while on a spring break trip to Daytona Beach when OU changed their agreement with their travel company, Echo Travel.

The legalities in the contract pointed toward who would be responsible for the passengers and their safety. Cameron Brunet-Koch, then assistant dean of students, said the university’s legal counsel wanted to make sure OU would not be liable for the safety of someone that was injured while consuming alcohol.

Again, some students did find the upside to the situation. Rob Miller, a then senior in sociology, said how he was happy with this change, noting, “There won’t be as much litter on the bus, and you don’t have long lines for the bathroom.”

While some people viewed this new policy change as a way to limit the drinking habits of the community and giving responsibility to those who chose to drink, others saw it as unfair and limiting their rights.