December 5, 2001

chancellor battle royale

Made a pretty good fool of myself today at the Chancellor’s news conference. Near the end of the session she casually asked us for any advice on improving student life at UMD. Everyone was silent, so I finally raised the dry campus issue. My question/statement was clumsy and amounted to a grade school “it’s not fair” argument. “How come even students over the age of 21 cannot drink on campus?” “Well,” smoothly replied the Chancellor, “95% of students living on campus are underage, so we laid it out in the interest of that majority. If it was closer to 50/50, we may have done something different.”

She won this round… and since I didn’t put my question in any context it sounded like a sorry-ass reporter’s attempt at trolling the speaker. “Oh look, lets drag the old cat out of the bag and beat it to death again!”

My point, which I figured out after the conference, was this. Yes, the majority of the 2,000 students living on campus are not of legal drinking age, most of them freshman. A UMD education seems to take students about five years, and three of those years are spent over the age of 21 (one’s junior, senior and super-senior years). By this, it can be reasoned that the majority of students at UMD are of legal drinking age.

The Bullpub on campus used to be just what its name suggests; a pub that served alcohol, perish the thought. Since UMD became dry that changed, of course. The renovations of the Kirby Student Center include a coffee shop. A noble proposal, yes, but not exactly practical with a college demographic. From my working experience at a coffee shop, the customers are usually high schoolers or professional old gits, those with disposable income. If poor college kids are going to pay three bucks a glass for something, we want a little buzz included in the deal.

So, it is with a coffee shop that they intend to introduce a social atmosphere to UMD. Currently there is no hep place to hang out on campus, and thus the school goes completely dead on weekends as students trek over to sleazy bars in Superior. Those that don’t make the trek (as research from fellow journalist Leah Berg suggests) end up sitting in their room moaning about being bored. There is no on-campus culture, because there is nothing to do/nowhere to go on campus. We have a sexy library, but that’s about all.

UMD needs a bar or pub or tavern or inn or anything on campus. It will attract students during nonacademic hours by serving the college drink of choice: Turpentine. This will not bring about widespread destruction of learning and teaching, but will hopefully draw students into a more intimate relationship with their school. Instead of only associating UMD with the drudgery of classes, students may begin to see that the school has other things to offer them. By spending some of their free-time on campus, they may see the school as a key element in their lives, not just their academics.

UMD cries over why donations from alumni are so low when compared to other schools. Perhaps because the school has no identity in their mind. Students go here, the school wrings as much as possible out of them, and afterwards they are more than happy to leave.

There is a dichotomy between academics and life, here. The school gives us what we need, but our wants go unfulfilled. Under a dry campus the fun must occur somewhere besides UMD, even though the fun is what I remember from college. UMD sits forgotten by the wayside.

It flopped the first time I tried to say it. I don’t know if I did any better with the second.

So yeah. Maybe we need to loosen the dry campus policy, get some booze and whores in here.