Addressing the alcohol issue

In the face of growing state and national concern over the abuse of alcohol on college campuses, the University has created a task force to review the alcohol policies at USF.

The Alcohol Awareness and Education Task Force, however, is not specifically responding to the changes in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s alcohol policy. The student response to the policy was a factor, however.

President Judy Genshaft discussed the possibility of this task force before the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s alcohol policy was instated, said task force co-chair Dr. Jay Wolfson. Genshaft worries about the University’s impact on the surrounding community, he said.

“We have special issues at USF that Gainesville doesn’t have, FSU doesn’t have, because we’re an urban campus,” Wolfson said.

In a letter sent to those invited to join the task force, Genshaft defined the task force’s purpose as “to review the most current thinking on the issue of alcohol use as it relates to an academic campus; to review current USF practice; to make constructive recommendations for effective implementation of initiatives aimed at ensuring an effective environment for the university’s mission.”

Wolfson said the task force’s job isn’t to change policy, but to make policy recommendations to Genshaft.

“President Genshaft recognized there was a need to step back and ask what we, as a community, are doing,” he said.

Some things that prompted the task force’s creation, Wolfson said, were the growing national concern over alcohol use on campus and the Amethyst Initiative — a document signed by university presidents advocating an open discussion on the legal drinking age. Genshaft did not sign this document.

The issue of alcohol use, Wolfson said, goes beyond students and beyond the classroom. The task force will address all areas of the University and evaluate policy from all sides.

“This is not just an issue affecting students — it’s affecting college life,” he said, adding that he hopes the task force can improve campus life by making the alcohol policy easier to understand.

“This is our campus, all of us, and we all have a vested interest in, as the president said, ensuring this is a safe, civil, responsible place,” he said.

Student Body President Gregory Morgan said he thinks the University needs to do more than review its existing policies.

“We need to start strengthening our alcohol education on campus,” he said.

Students felt they should be more informed, but allowed to make their own decisions.

Senior communications major Gilbert Pedroza said he wants the task force to better define what it means to be a wet campus (a campus on which alcohol is allowed).

“If I don’t know the extent of what a wet campus is, then I don’t know what’s legal,” he said.

Kristian Dela Rosa, a sophomore majoring in bio-medical science, said he doesn’t think the alcohol policy should be very restrictive.

“Students should take responsibility for themselves,” he said.

Associate General Counsel Jodi Adamchak and Dr. Mark Goldman, director of the Alcohol and Substance Use Research Institute, will oversee the committee. Adamchak said her role is to advise the task force on policy. Goldman will advise the task force on the health issues of and national concern about campus alcohol use, Wolfson said.

Though the task force was not given a specific deadline, Wolfson said he hopes the group can make its recommendations to Genshaft before next year.

During the first week of school, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s was allowed to serve alcohol all day, every day. On Sept. 2, USF decided to ban the sale of alcohol before 6 p.m. on weekdays. University spokesman Michael Hoad said this decision was made to adhere to University policy that prohibits students and employees from going to class or work intoxicated.

On Sept. 17, senior business major James Callihan e-mailed Genshaft, asking her to reconsider the policy and allow patrons to buy alcohol during lunch and afternoon hours. About a week later, the Student Government senate passed a resolution against the policy, suggesting the University take substantial student input into consideration before deciding on any additional policies regarding alcohol sales on campus. A resolution represents the official opinion on the student body.