Staff editorial: University should adopt new policy on selling alcohol at athletic events
Alcohol sales may boost attendance, engagement with AU sports
During this spring’s Student Government elections, students had the opportunity to vote on a referendum on whether they would support the sale of alcohol at on-campus athletic games. The referendum passed with overwhelming support, with 81 percent of students voting for the measure. The reason offered for the alcohol sale proposal was that the measure would boost student and alumni attendance and improve school spirit.
As any AU student knows, games do not draw huge audiences. Data obtained by The Eagle found that the average attendance at men’s basketball games – the best attended sport – was only 738 people.
Students and alumni have not demonstrated a large interest in attending basketball games, or any other sport, for that matter. The hope from those who proposed the referendum and those who voted to pass it is that alcohol sales will change this.
The Editorial Board agrees that alcohol sales at athletic events will increase revenue for the athletic department and increase student and alumni attendance – at least at first.
The University has increasingly grown more relaxed with its on-campus alcohol policies, as the campus has transitioned to being “damp,” in order to allow students who are over 21 to have alcohol in their residence hall rooms. This acceptance of student drinking speaks more to the student body and makes drinking more casual for students.
The potential to sell alcohol at sporting events also provides a legitimate opportunity to attract more students who may want to have a calmer weekend night. Games would provide a space for students to interact in a relaxed environment while still being able to drink alcohol.
This also provides students with a cheaper sports option, as D.C. professional teams are currently more attractive to them than student games. Simply put, the board believes that going to an athletic event and having a beer should be an option for students who are of age.
However, this potential change does present issues. The University would do well to follow rules similar to other college sport venues, like only being allowed to order one beer at a time or stopping sales after the third quarter. Also, students may try to use fake IDs to purchase alcohol or ask older friends to buy it for them.
As The Eagle previously reported, AU students often subscribe to a “work hard, play hard” culture that the University would have to be mindful of if they start these sales. If the caveat for student attendance is alcohol, the University should take the opportunity to discuss safe drinking habits with students and showing what that can look like at AU.
As discussions continue among administrators about the potential policy change, The Eagle recommends keeping the sales simple. While George Washington University has a ticketed program, in which students can buy tickets to attend a wine event prior to a game, it is our opinion that sales should be out of the concession stand.
It may even be possible to use student IDs to check age or using university systems to confirm that someone is not using a fake ID. Most likely, the alcohol served would be beer and wine, making the games a casual and student friendly environment. The University will need to ensure that responsible steps are taken to prevent belligerent students.
Drinking while watching a game is an American pastime. If AU students have shown an interest in doing so at athletic events, and may attend more games because of it, it’s up to the University to figure out the right way to honor that request.
This article originally appeared in The Eagle's April 2019 print edition.