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Concordia to allow 'of age' students to drink 'limited quantities' of alcohol on campus

MOORHEAD—Concordia College will allow students who are 21 years old to drink "limited quantities" of alcohol in private living areas on campus, ending a 125-year prohibition for students who can drink legally.

The new campus alcohol policy, still being drafted with student input, was approved this summer by the Concordia Board of Regents and will take effect Jan. 1. Drinking by underage students will remain prohibited.

"We're just beginning the process" of drafting the new policy, Sue Oatey, Concordia's vice president and dean of student affairs, said Wednesday, Sept. 28.

In an email to students and others at Concordia, Oatey reported that regents authorized administrators to develop the new policy.

Under the framework established by regents, the new policy will allow the "possession and consumption of limited quantities of alcohol in the private living areas of residence halls by students who are of legal drinking age," Oatey wrote in the email announcement.

"That's as far as we've gone right now," she said in an interview, noting the guidelines set forth by regents. "At this point, we haven't designated buildings."

She added, "I think we're trying to talk about how to do things in a responsible manner."

The decision to reverse a strict campus alcohol ban that dates to Concordia's origin came from a discussion of the college's policies governing student life. The underlying question was, "Do we need to change our policies because our students have changed?" Oatey said.

In recent years, Concordia and other colleges in the region have struggled with declining enrollment, in part because of demographic trends. Enrollment challenges did not prompt the change in the campus alcohol policy, she said.

"I don't see it as that," Oatey said. Instead, the motivation came from acknowledging that students of legal age who live off campus can drink legally. Almost 30 percent of Concordia seniors and 40 percent of juniors live on campus.

"So not small numbers of juniors and seniors live on campus," Oatey said.

North Dakota State University and Minnesota State University Moorhead ban drinking by students on campus, but several private colleges in Minnesota allow students who are of legal age to imbibe on campus.

Private Minnesota campuses that allow alcohol on campus include Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Augsburg College in Minneapolis and Hamline University in St. Paul, according to a list compiled by Concordia.

Although binge drinking among college students is a concern, nationally and in the region, students can be given guidance to help them make responsible decisions, Oatey said.

"The vast majority of our students make good decisions," she said. "We're really proud of them."

Anne Blackhurst, president of MSUM, said she does not favor amending the university's ban of alcohol on campus.

"I think it's a slippery slope," she told The Forum Editorial Board. "It's a door—I don't think we need to open it and I don't know why we'd want to open it."

But Blackhurst said she understands the arguments for allowing alcohol on campus, including the points that 21-year-old students are adults and colleges must teach their students to act responsibly.

Every institution, she said, must make their own decision.

Patrick Springer

Patrick Springer first joined the reporting staff of The Forum in 1985. He can be reached by calling 701-241-5522. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to