As part of our Curious Cornhuskers initiative, an anonymous reader asked The Daily Nebraskan, “Will UNL ever become a wet campus? Who has the power to do that? ASUN? I feel this is especially warranted because of the Progress party.”
Progress, a student election group running for seats in the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska, wants to advocate for changes to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s policy regarding alcohol sale and consumption.
The group wants to make this change to increase safety for students, allowing them to drink on campus and not drive back under the influence, and to provide funds to UNL through donations from potential alcohol sales in Memorial Stadium on Husker game days, according to the group’s platform.
According to Leslie Reed, public affairs director for University Communication, UNL is not a completely “dry campus,” as alcohol is permitted for specific events or class projects, such as the study of the effects of alcohol. Pursuant to state law, persons under the age of 21 are not allowed to consume or be in the possession of alcohol, and the policies at UNL are outlined both by campus administration and the Board of Regents.
Reed said for a major change to occur, such as the allowance of alcohol consumption in residence halls or alcohol sales at Memorial Stadium, the decision would require collaboration with the Board of Regents, UNL administration and the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission. The change would also have to adhere to city ordinance.
“Just a student government action probably would not be enough,” Reed said.
As Progress’ presidential candidate, sophomore political science major William Beck said he and his party are already looking at what steps they could take if they are elected to ASUN office. He said ASUN would first need to pass a resolution and present its evidence to the Board of Regents to consider the facts of the case. Beck said he would use his role as president to encourage change outside the office as well.
“The office of president of ASUN is a powerful position, and it does absolutely go beyond just the students here, even though it is the students that elect us,” Beck said.
Internal vice presidential candidate and freshman criminology and criminal justice major Oscar Canizales said he has also reached out to State Sen. Adam Morfeld about how to move forward with a policy change and use the State Legislature as an ally for advocating for change around the city.
Canizales said he and Beck could not find recent data or current evidence to support their policy change, but they decided now may be the right time to offer the change and work to make the transition successful and safe, should the candidates be elected to office.
“It’s not going to be easy at first, and the transition is definitely going to be a difficult one,” Canizales said. “Working hard with ... all of the great organizations we have to go through to make this happen, hopefully we’ll be successful in preventing any cons from happening at a large scale, but also helping make this the most successful it can be.”
Canizales said Progress would use the ASUN office to mitigate adverse effects and work to prevent harms from occuring on campus, including sexual assault related to alcohol. He said he and Beck would try to work with Dear UNL and other recognized student organizations to ensure the campus community would feel safe throughout the transition.
Beck and Canizales said they would create safety awareness classes about alcohol so students know the alcohol-related risks and are aware of resources on campus. Students would learn about their associated rights, such as Nebraska’s Good Samaritan Law, which allows underage students to obtain emergency care for a student in danger due to alcohol without receiving a minor in possession charge.
“It’s going to be definitely a huge step forward if it occurs,” Canizales said. “We’re ready to work with people, we’re ready to work with all these organizations along the way to try to make this successful. Obviously, we can’t do this alone, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to step up, take leadership and try to make this a successful transition for UNL.”
Though Nebraska Athletics and UNL are two separate entities, Beck said he and Canizales anticipate having close, constant contact with the Athletic Department and asking it to donate a portion of the sales revenue of alcohol at Memorial Stadium to UNL.
Progress is also running on the platform of increasing funding for Counseling and Psychological Services, which would address potential concerns about alcohol’s impact on mental health and provide another resource for students, according to Beck.
Canizales said the policy change would not incentivize more students to drink but would allow students of legal age to do so more safely. He said the policy still would not allow students to have open alcoholic beverages in public or drink in class.
“Alcohol consumption already happens on campus,” Canizales said. “The only thing that’s changing is that it’s now legal for people of age to actually do it without getting in trouble.”