The University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus is dry, and Chancellor Harvey Perlman said that isn’t going to change anytime soon.
“There’s been conversation about (policy change) over the years, mostly from students,” Perlman said, “but it’s not been seriously considered.”
Perlman said it would be “extraordinarily unlikely” for UNL to ever become a “wet” campus. In order for UNL to amend its policy, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents would have to approve the change.
Currently, the university only allows alcohol to be served at events pre-approved by the Board of Regents following a set of restrictions and regulations.
As one of six schools in the Big Ten Conference with a dry campus policy, UNL does not permit alcohol possession or consumption anywhere on campus — including residence halls, Greek houses, the Nebraska Union or Memorial Stadium. In addition, alcohol sales are not permitted on Husker football game days.
Penn State, a wet campus, allows alcohol sales and consumption at football games, as well as in designated family residence halls where residents must be at least 21 years of age.
According to a 2012 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nebraska ranks second in the country for binge drinking. Lincoln itself ranked third nationally in the Centers’ study of binge-drinking cities.
But Perlman said university programs are doing enough to combat student drinking.
“Ours is regarded as a model program,” he said.
Perlman did not rule out the possibility that a policy-shift could change students’ drinking habits.
“It’s plausible that less regulation would drive students to consume less,” Perlman said.
Caroline Henning, a freshman exploratory major at UNL, said a dry campus policy is beneficial for students.
“I think it’s what’s best for the university,” Henning said. “More people are (at UNL) for the right reasons.”
Henning, who lives on campus, said she thinks she would see more more alcohol and alcohol-influenced behavior if UNL allowed alcohol on campus.
“I haven’t seen any people running down the hallway with a beer bottle,” she said.
Henning said she thinks the policy specifically benefits underclassmen.
“I don’t feel as pressured as an incoming freshman to drink,” she said, “Anywhere you go, you’ll find people that drink. But (in the residence halls) I have friends that don’t drink on my floor, and I don’t drink.”
However, not all UNL students agree that the dry campus restrictions help combat drinking.
“I don’t think so, it’s one of the last times that people are living with their friends,” said Zachary Clark, a senior broadcasting major. “But it probably helps contain the situation from getting crazy.”
But as authorities and university officials have seen over the years, restrictions do not necessarily guarantee students’ safety.
Alcohol has been a contributing factor in a number of serious – even fatal – accidents at UNL. This February, 24-year-old UNL student Matt Dutton died after falling eight stories in a parking garage. His fall came after a night of heavy drinking with friends and a party. At the time, his reported blood alcohol content was 0.39 percent. In April, 21-year-old Ryan Healy, a junior, fell three stories off the roof of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house. The fall left Healy in critical condition. It was reported Healy was drunk at the time of the fall.
Campus alcohol regulations can affect upperclassmen differently than underclassmen, Clark said.
“It’s challenging to respect the university’s rules, but you have to make good choices when you’re on campus,” Clark said, “You still want to have fun, so it’s a balancing act.”
The 22-year-old said he is aware of upperclassmen who bring alcohol onto campus property, despite dry campus restrictions.
“Most people hide it in backpacks or grocery bags,” he said.
To save money, he said, many people 21 and older will do much of their drinking on campus before going to bars downtown.
However, Clark said he has never had any issues himself with campus authorities when it comes to alcohol. When he was was an underclassman, Clark said he knew a group of seven or eight people who lived on his residence hall floor that were charged with minor in possession. He remembered being too afraid of detox to consider drinking in the dorms.
“There were rumors that they would poke you and stick you with IVs and basically torture you,” Clark said. “I know they don’t do that now.”
But Clark said university rules won’t stop other students from drinking anytime soon.
“It makes people think twice,” he said. “(But) people will drink in college regardless.”