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ISSUE 121 VOL 11 PUBLISHED 2/22/2008

Legion unveils hypocrisy

By Seth Hendricks
Contributing Writer

Friday, February 22, 2008

Since 1874, the St. Olaf College campus has been a strict alcohol-free zone. While organizations like the Student Activities Committee (SAC) work hard to ensure there are entertaining events on campus nearly every weekend, many students yearn to mix and mingle freely in the presence of alcohol.

The American Legion attracts exactly this crowd. Though it may serve as a gathering place for veterans during the week, weekend nights it caters to the rabble-rousing of liquored-up college students. For freshmen this is a new experience, but other classes are well aware of the wild revelry generally known as "the Slegion."

The Administration has recently expressed concern over the year's first Legion, hosted by St. Olaf students. "The issue," as Dean Kneser explains it, "is that there were no events planned in Buntrock that night." This means an organized, alcohol-free substitute was not readily available for students who did not want to be tempted.

Yet, preparing and planning for an event at the Pause must take place weeks beforehand. During January, many students, including those who work in the Pause and for SAC, are abroad; making the logistics of planning an event extremely complicated. The first two-day week of classes in February also makes organizing such an event nearly impossible.

Dean Kneser's main concern is for the safety of students in the unsupervised presence of alcohol. When there is a Legion, inevitably an ambulance, or a squad car, will show up.

Regrettably, many of these infractions occur at the hands of under-aged freshmen, who may not be as accustomed to alcohol consumption as their legal counterparts. These problems often spill back to campus where the administration must take action.

However, the argument has been made that openly drinking alcohol in a public space is safer than the behind-closed-doors drinking that occurs at St. Olaf. Those who would claim that alcohol consumption does not take place before alcohol-free events like Pause dances are clearly ill-informed. "It's called 'the panic,' where before you go somewhere you can't drink, you're afraid you're not drunk," Eric Spooner '08 said. "So, you start hammering down shots, and then you end up getting wasted. I think it's something many have experienced, but few have a term for." This type of hush-hush splurging can be dangerous.

The debate over the recent Legion has also drawn some criticism of the administration's campus-wide alcohol policy. Senior Week is a week of events planned specifically for seniors the week prior to graduation. It is planned by the Senior Week Committee, which is part of SAC.

Obviously, not all of these events can be alcohol-free, nor should they be. Dean Kneser acknowledges that some of the vendors serve alcohol, but the choice to imbibe is up to each student.

Senior Week is loosely treated as an alumni event. Seniors, while not technically alumni, now have the freedom to choose to drink alcohol or not -- even though those that live outside the Olaf bubble earn this freedom when they turn 21.

Again, the issue turns to safety. Dean Kneser recognizes that Senior Week is much less of a problem than the Legion or the Grand, and he attributes this to the fact that those who drink during Senior Week are all doing so legally.

To some students, the administration's lack of clear policy seems hypocritical. Though there is no specific policy regarding off-campus drinking for St. Olaf students, the strict dry-campus policy seems to set a double-standard. "Turn over any rock," Kneser said, "and you can find hypocrisy."

Alumni are allowed to drink on campus, but not current students who are of age, and some school-sponsored events like Senior Week have alcohol readily available. While having the opportunity to drink alcohol at these events is certainly nothing to complain about, this question of hypocrisy reinforces the belief that the school's alcohol policy is seriously outdated.

Seth Hendricks '08 is from Reedsville, Wisc. He majors in English.

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