Alcohol-free campus doesn’t hold water

By Gus Bode

SIUC Chancellor Walter Wendler wants this University to be squeaky clean. And that is not necessarily a bad thing.

He’s about as sick of our undeserved party-school image as a man can be, and he is honestly determined to turn that around.

The Daily Egyptian agrees that his heart is in the right place. But his ideas? Now, those are a different story. Wendler is floating around a proposal to make SIUC alcohol-free, and he hopes to get campus dialogue rolling.

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The alcohol problems this campus has experienced have occurred off-campus essentially on one street, on one holiday, one time per year.

Tailgating. Beer-drinking in Neely Hall by older students. Champagne in wedding receptions at the Student Center. Wine after the Symphony at Shryock.

These have never made national headlines because of drunken antics. These affairs do not result in car tipping and arrested hooligans. Police rarely, if ever, subdue wild, drunken symphony fans or wedding guests on campus.

These are not the events fueling SIU’s perception problem, so changing them will not fix our image.

We appreciate the chancellor’s moxie. He is a courageous man who is not afraid to take the heat on controversial stances that he believes will strengthen this University.

That is a good characteristic for a leader to have, but only when coupled with another important element of leadership:understanding who it is you are leading and what they want.

Fans who do not want to take their children to SIU football games because of obnoxious alcohol-induced students at the events let the chancellor know of their problems. But we believe these people are the minority. It is hard to imagine erasing beer from sporting events and harder still to imagine erasing it from this campus.

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If this was the sort of thing the community wanted, it probably would have happened already. Rather, it seems like something the chancellor and a few others want. Carbondale is no more plagued with liquor problems than any other town, except for at that one time of year, and again, off campus.

The City Council’s vote against Wendler’s proposal to ban booze at Turley Sunset Concerts Tuesday may give the chancellor a little insight into the pulse of Carbondale. The character of this town and the student body is a little more relaxed than those few voices make it appear.

Wendler also hopes the prohibition will discourage underage students from drinking, but he admits this is wishful thinking. He also does not see how alcohol adds to the University’s mission. And perhaps it doesn’t. But neither does Spring Thing or other concerts at the Arena that are simply part of the social fabric.

College students are introduced to drinking culture as they are to all of life’s responsibilities. Whether they choose to partake in the activity has little to do with whether they can sip one on campus or off. Even if Father Chancellor keeps beer out of the house, students still have to ride that bumpy road to adulthood on their own.

There’s an old saying, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Chancellor, we need your fearless initiatives and moral courage to fix the things that are broken on this campus. Leave alcohol where it belongs:as a personal choice.

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