Alcohol review looks at changing campus bars

Draft of new policy includes practices used at other Universities, including restrictions on residences and bars

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The draft for a new Queen’s alcohol policy, which will result in more restrictions for on-campus pubs and residences, will soon be finalized.

“Our main concern through this process is that our pubs already operate at a fairly safe level,” said AMS Vice-President of University Affairs Kieran Slobodin.

He said the final alcohol policy will most likely be passed in the upcoming summer months.

Slobodin, a member of the Alcohol Working Group that created the draft, said the administration is excluding student input by passing the policy during the summer.

“It’s likely going to come into effect when students aren’t here,” Slobodin, ArtSci ’12, said. “Some of what we’ve been talking about would drastically change the nature of events on campus.”

The Alcohol Working Group has taken the “best practices” of alcohol policies from other Ontario universities, including Carleton University and the University of Toronto, and compiled them into the draft.

Officials from the Alcohol Working Group wouldn’t provide the Journal with a copy of the draft.

Regulations at Carleton University’s on-campus bars include no shots being sold, alcohol only in plastic containers after 8 p.m. and a maximum of one drink per order after midnight.

“If the changes are too restrictive then it won’t bode well … students are going to feel blindsided and ambushed,” Slobodin said of Queen’s draft policy. “The alcohol policy is trying to address a lot of things at once, which is good … but it means there needs to be a lot of discussion.”

The Alcohol Working Group was formed in 2007 to address alcohol culture on campus. Current members include representatives from Student Affairs, the AMS, Housing and Hospitality Services and Campus Security.

Slobodin said ideally no changes would be made until September, once most students return for the fall 2012 term. This would allow for open discussion and communication regarding the changes.

“If it comes out in May there will be nobody to react,” Slobodin said.

He added that last summer, during a May Senate meeting, the GPA system was passed without much student input. This led to backlash and proposed changes to the system during many Senate meetings throughout the year.

It may also be necessary to change service operations at the on-campus bars, such as Alfie’s, Queen’s Pub and Clark Hall Pub, and the managers will need time to adjust, Slobodin said.

Policy talks so far have included the AMS, the Society of Graduate and Professional Studies (SGPS), managers from on-campus pubs and faculty society representatives.

Slobodin said the new policy may change TAPS operations but that ultimately the on-campus bars will remain in the AMS’s control.

“We’ll still be in control but because our liquor licences are owned and operated by the University they do have the ability to say ‘These are the conditions under which you operate.’”

Slobodin said the AMS is concerned the draft would impose too many restrictions, such as early closing times, and this could cause students to leave the safety of campus to drink alcohol at the downtown bars and clubs.

“The students around the table have been very vocal in the sense that we feel if we restrict our locations too much it will push students outside of the University District,” Slobodin said. “[The administration] has voiced that they don’t think that’s as big of a concern.” Slobodin said Queen’s on-campus bars and pubs offer safety nets that aren’t available for students downtown.

For example, patrons are currently required to present student identification before entering many on-campus locations. One guest may be signed in per student.

A minimum of two or three Student Constables and bar managers are also always present in these venues to watch the amount of alcohol consumption, Slobodin said.

“We want students to be able to make safe and educated decisions about alcohol,” he said. “We don’t want students to not be able to make decisions by restricting too much of what they can do on campus.”

Ann Tierney, vice-provost and dean of student affairs, said creating the draft has involved consultations with student representatives, such as the managers of on-campus pubs.

She added that specific sections of the draft are in different stages of development.

“A significant amount of work has been done but there is much more to do,” Tierney told the Journal via email. “I think the group is very committed to this work so that the result is a comprehensive policy that is customized to Queen’s.” Ryan Flannagan, director of student affairs at Carleton University, said their current alcohol policy was implemented after there were problems with fights in the on-campus bars.

There are two on-campus bars run by student unions — the undergraduate bar Oliver’s and the graduate bar Mike’s Place.

Flannagan said after the updated policy was implemented in March 2009 there was an initial backlash from students.

“There were significant changes that the students weren’t particularly happy about,” Flannagan said, adding that this included reducing the size of the undergraduate bar Oliver’s.

“Now the student union has come to be really supportive of the policy … [the bars] have become a safe community for students.”

Flannagan said students were consulted prior to the changes.

Now Carleton University is looking into changing policies, like getting rid of the rule that prohibits the sale of shots.

“We’re revisiting that because we think the student union is doing a pretty good job of managing the space,” Flannagan said.

Alcoholism on campus

Queen’s Health, Counseling and Disability Services (HCDS) offers resources for students that suffer from alcoholism. But according to HCDS Medical Director Dr. Suzanne Billing, many cases may remain undiagnosed.

“There are likely more undiagnosed cases than those diagnosed,” Billing told the Journal via email. “Those who misuse alcohol often tell themselves that they just like to party or have fun and that the way they drink is ‘normal.’”

Billing said by normalizing the misuse of alcohol, people allow the condition to persist for a long time.

HCDS does not collect statistics about the number of students suffering from alcoholism, Billing said.

She defined alcohol abuse as someone who continues to consume large amounts of alcohol without regard to negative health effects.

“Another example would be the student who binges three nights a week (five or more drinks) and suffers from poor energy, rarely attends classes thus failing, or performing very sub-optimally,” Billing said.

She added that these individuals don’t attribute these effects to alcohol.

Physicians on campus may see an injury and not relate it to binge-drinking habits, Billing said.

“Here at Queen’s student health we see a large number of alcohol related injuries which would be unlikely to have occurred without the involvement of alcohol,” she said.

Billing added that those with short-term Substance Use Disorder are susceptible to high rates of depression and suicide.

She said denial was common in alcoholics and therefore treating them was difficult.

Students who think their friend or peer is suffering from alcoholism should approach them when they are sober and say they think they have a problem.

“Suggest that they seek help from a doctor, counsellor or Alcoholics Anonymous,” Billing said. “One can even offer to go with the person if comfortable doing so.”

— Catherine Owsik

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