Traditionally, UT student government campaigns brand themselves with a catchy buzzword.
Since 2010, there's been "Spark!" and "Reach!" and "Revolt!" and "Fuel!" and "Amplify!" and "Engage!"
But though these are undeniably riveting, a running joke in SGA circles for some time has been that if a campaign were to call itself "Wet Campus!" they would have no issue in securing every seat in Senate and on the executive board.
Yes, the University of Tennessee is a "dry campus." This means that, according to Hilltopics, a student may be disciplined for possessing an alcoholic beverage on University-controlled property. So even students of legal drinking age who live in university housing may be disciplined for the mere possession of a beer.
I place "dry campus" in quotations marks. If newspaper columns allowed for air quotes, I'd be flashing them like a high school English teacher who's had too much coffee because we all know the University of Tennessee is not a "dry campus."
In fact, UT's standing as a "dry campus" does little to keep alcohol out of residence halls or even teach any sort of precautions about responsible drinking. Instead, "dry campus" perpetuates perceived norms about the dangers of underage drinking, ensures a culture of binge drinking and radiates blatant distrust in our own students.
The idea that "dry campus" will deter underage students from consuming alcohol is clearly myth. American drinking culture holds college above its head as the standard, a golden time of drunkenness. With or without "dry campus," freshmen and sophomores already feel the peer and cultural pressure to consume or at least be around alcohol.
According to the 2008 publication of the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Survey, underage students drank alcohol as often at schools with a ban than without one. So not only is the "dry campus" moniker misleading, it encourages of-age students in university housing to go out and drink heavily – which obviously entails its own gamut of risks – because they can't enjoy a few beers or a glass of wine in their own residence because of a selfish, misleading university policy.
Most irking to me about UT's status as a "dry campus" is a clear message that UT doesn't trust its own students to make responsible decisions about alcohol. Our students are full-fledged adults. UT expects them, at 18, to take a strenuous course load, get on track to graduate in four years and in many cases, work part-time jobs on top of studying to pay the school for their education.
A common objection is that on a dry campus, since of-age students will be discouraged to have alcohol in their possession, it will be more unlikely that underage students will experience that presence.
That assertion is laughable at best. The Harvard study indicates that freshman binge drinking has remained stable over a long period of time, no matter what university policy is. (In fact, effects seem to hinge more on state policy). Like in high school, if someone who is 15 wants alcohol, they're going to get it. At UT, if someone who is 18 wants alcohol, they're going to get it.
Sure, maybe the university encourages responsible drinking, but it seems clear that encouragement ends at freshman orientation. It seems reasonable to me that a continuing education on how to safely consume alcohol through required online classes and surveys or required meetings with resident assistants would not only lead to a better understanding of alcohol among students but convey a constructive university attitude that could reduce dangerous drinking habits.
To me, the killer in this whole argument can be found at UT's other favorite pastime, outside Neyland Stadium on a fall Saturday. If you walk around after the traditional Vols loss, you will notice that alumni, adult fans and students have littered the campus with red solo cups, Natty Light cans and plastic Fireball handles.
Granted, it would take an army of boys in blue to curtail the amount of drinking on our "dry campus" on a Saturday, but if the university wasn't quite as obsessed with the types of good that a successful football atmosphere can bring (money, money, money), and actually want to truly be proud about its "dry campus," it would bring in the Tennessee National Guard to make sure everyone is safe and sober.
Maybe then the policy would seem a little less self-serving and paper-thin.
Wade Scofield is a senior in religious studies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.