Campus pub sparks change to alcohol policies at UNM

UNM’s Newest Taproom, Draft & Table. Photo By Courtney Salinger / NM News Port

The University of New Mexico opened its first-ever on-campus beer tap room, Draft & Table, on Oct. 1, 2018 in the Student Union Building. Although students may now enjoy a convenient place to grab a beer, some campus officials see the potential for problems. They worry that ready-access to alcohol could lead to binge drinking or alcohol-related violations.

A 2018 study by the University of Delaware shows that alcohol is the most abused substance on college campuses. The study found that 76 percent of college students consumed alcohol in the past month and 50 percent drank excessively.

According to Lt. Trace Peck of the UNM Police Department, UNMPD was concerned about the tap room causing similar misconduct that occurs at football and basketball games.

“We were pretty concerned about that, knowing that they were going to start selling alcohol to students,” Peck said. “We’ve been dealing with it in the last two years at The Pit and for the football games. Problems have increased at football games because they are allowed to use the grass area in the back to bring out alcohol.”

Peck said there were instances where students would have to be transported by ambulances because of over-drinking at school events and parties.

COSAP billboard at UNM. Photo by Courtney Salinger / NM News Port

The UNM department most involved in trying to prevent alcohol abuse is COSAP —  the Campus Offices of Substance Abuse Prevention, a division of CASAA — Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association.

Rachel Abeyta, COSAP’s Project Coordinator, has developed policy guidelines to prevent alcohol-related problems.

“The idea of these policy suggestions are to protect students and to protect UNM — protect UNM for liability, for what a student might do, but also make sure students know what’s expected of them, if they know they are going to get intoxicated on campus,” Abeyta said.

Examples of policy changes at UNM include providing resources to students about safe alcohol consumption. Another change is to have security provided for UNM students in the tap room, during hours of operation.

COSAP advises that student events involving alcohol are not to be permitted during midterm exams, “Dead Week,” final exams or any other critical academic periods.

The department also suggests that student groups interested in organizing an event involving alcohol, need training.

“One of my suggestions is to have a training for those student leaders who want to host an event,” Abeyta said. “I want them to understand their role in an alcohol environment and how they influence people who drink there –the way they talk about alcohol as being part of the event, making sure there’s no peer pressure.”

ASUNM Chief of Staff, Alice Vernon, is interested in holding future events at the tap room.

“I think that would be a great opportunity,” Vernon said. “I think it’s still so new that we’re trying to figure out the best way to go about it. There’s always a risk of not wanting to encourage underage drinking, and we want to be inclusive of all students, because the tap room is also accessible to underage students. That shouldn’t be a problem.”

COSAP has established preferred drinking behaviors when students are in the tap room. Drinking games will not be permitted, due to the fact that it may rapidly increase the ingestion of alcohol. COSAP states that games are high-risk activities that may cause students to over-consume alcohol, and it should not be advertised on campus.

COSAP notes that UNMPD Officers will report any alcohol violation, whether it is at an event, in campus spaces or during their routine patrols.

According to Lt. Peck, whenever there are alcohol violations on campus, the UNMPD tries to make it an administrative process. Peck said their approach is enforcement, followed by a referral.

Other alcohol control policies include:

  • Having alcohol prevention media shown in the tap room
  • Payment restrictions in the tap room to prevent Lobo cards being used to purchase alcohol
  • Barring free drinks as an award or gift to other students, campus organizations or a promotion for an event
  • Preventing advertisements of the tap room or alcohol events from targeting minors, encouraging over drinking or irresponsible consumption of alcohol
  • Enlisting alcohol marketers or distributors to support alcohol awareness programs that encourage students to drink responsibly
Center for Drug and Health Studies 2018 Drinking Data for College Students

The University of Delaware college alcohol study showed that 52 percent of students binge drank in one sitting during the  month prior to the survey. For males, 58 percent had a likely chance of engaging in binge drinking. Females had a 49 percent chance of engaging in binge drinking.

Students also reported ways they received alcohol, such as purchasing it from bars, restaurants, and liquor stores. Underage drinkers reported getting alcohol from parties and friends.

John Steiner, UNM CASAA Program Manager, said people have an exaggerated view of college-age drinking. He says his view is informed by a student survey taken each spring. “It’s called the student lifestyles survey,” Steiner said. “It’s all self-reported data, and it’s all confidential.”

The UNM Student Lifestyles Survey collected data from over 600 students during Spring of 2018. Of the surveyed students, 42 percent avoided playing drinking games. Over 67 percent of UNM students kept track of the number of drinks they consumed, but only 47.8 percent of those students limited the number of drinks they consumed per hour.  

Video: UNM CASAA Program Manager, John Steiner, explains how the campus will use a “social norms” campaign to inform student perceptions about alcohol consumption.talks about policy changes

Meanwhile, Abeyta hopes to see UNM organize and post campus alcohol policies online for easier access.

“They agreed to publish their Safety Procedures document online, but we have yet to see that happen,” Abeyta said. “As of now, UNM’s many rules surrounding alcohol are confusing and hard to find.”

Steiner advised that any student who has any questions concerning alcohol or drug abuse, should contact his office. “We can help them get started in the right direction,” Steiner said.

Learn more about UNM COSAP and UNM CASAA.                                  

You can follow Courtney Salinger and Jennifer West on Twitter @lookinfresh23 and @jenniferlwest97.