More than two years later, the future of alcohol at sports games is still up in the air

University reluctant to implement referendum

More than two years later, the future of alcohol at sports games is still up in the air

Despite a 2019 referendum that supported selling alcohol at sports games on campus, American University has made no progress on such efforts.

The student body passed a referendum supporting the sale of alcohol by 81 percent in the spring 2019 Student Government elections, yet no policy changes have been made. 

“As other peer institutions transition towards allowing such sales, the AU athletics department has an opportunity to gain the similar benefits and provide the best game day experience possible for its students and alumni,” the referendum read. 

The initiative was introduced by former SG Vice President Leela Najafi with the hope of generating more alumni attendance as well as increasing school spirit among current students at games.

Administrators overseeing campus life said that they do not currently foresee a path forward for the referendum. Pritma Irizarry, the director of the Health Promotion and Advocacy Center, raised doubts about the referendum and said that HPAC would not support it under her guidance.

“We already have really high rates of alcohol use on campus,” Irizarry said. “So, I don’t think this would help in any way. I think this would actually add to the risk that we already have on campus,” Irizarry said. 

No administrators or students have approached her about enacting the referendum since 2019, she said. 

Marijuana and alcohol use at the University have consistently been higher than the national average, according to a 2018 survey conducted by AU in partnership with the American College Health Association, so Irizarry said she fears allowing any alcohol on campus would only increase the already high rates.

In her opinion, selling alcohol at games will not increase school spirit or be the reason “students start going to games all of a sudden,” Irizarry said.

“If I was an athlete, I would want people to come to my games because they actually wanted to be there and wanted to watch the sport, not because they could sit in the stands and get drunk,” Irizarry said. 

Fanta Aw, vice president of campus life and inclusive excellence, shared similar opinions.

She said the referendum did not have a clear end goal and there was not enough discussion with the University over how the referendum’s goals would be achieved. There is too much liability and cost to the University, she said.

“There’s a bigger issue here, and that is, you know, there could be liability,” Aw said. “And so I really wanted to be able to sit down with the truth and understand what is this trying to accomplish. What is the end goal here?”

Aw is interested in “building community” and she said that increasing school spirit is important but can be accomplished without selling alcohol on campus.

As students return to campus after the pandemic, Aw said that opportunities have been made to come together and there is a greater emphasis on looking for rituals and traditions. There is the possibility for a more “substantive discussion” on what that might look like.

Associate Athletic Director Andrew Smith said that the sports department supports any initiative to sell alcohol at sports games.

“I do think that allowing for the sale of alcohol at our sporting events could help us just enhance the atmosphere,” Smith said. “Now, it just gives you something else to add to the experience of being a fan.”

Smith said that the athletics department is not in the position to push the University for the referendum to be introduced. Their focus as well as the university’s right now is “health and safety.”

Grace Magness, a senior double majoring in SIS and economics, said that alcohol at sports games would probably incentivize many of her friends and herself to go to more games. 

“I know anytime they offer other food like pizza it brings more crowds,” Magness said. “So if [they’re] looking to expand their sports, then I would say yes it is a good use of time and resources.”

But after she graduates, Magness said the presence of alcohol at games would not influence her decision to attend them as an alumna. 

Senior Bailey Nemirow of SOC said that the referendum could “boost attendance” and be a part of a “greater effort to promote school spirit.” She said that she believed alcohol could allow more of her friends to make an occasion of going to AU games. 

“I don't think it would be a big draw for alums,” Nemirow said. “I think for people who are nearby already or fans and adults who live in the area, or have kids on the team that could be a potential draw.”

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