We live for the atmosphere: the smell of fresh cut grass on the field, the symphony of the band, the sea of orange, and, most of all, the tailgates that accompany every game day at the University of Tennessee.
What would a UT game day be without fraternity house parties, Fiji Island and Circle Park, all in line to create one of the most exciting tailgating experiences in the South?
The evidence is underfoot; walking through Circle Park's carpet of solo cups and beer cans after a day of hefty tailgating gives testament to the VolNation's sheer size and fanaticism.
Although I cannot complain about the rowdy ambiance that accompanies the Volunteers, I must ask the question: What about the other six days of the week?
On Saturday afternoons, a mass of people walks from Fraternity Park to Neyland Stadium with cups in hand. I see them pass cop after cop, and not a single police officer seems to blink an eye. Circle Park alumni tailgates have bottles of liquor in plain view; even on the carefully-watched Row, alumni and students alike tend to get away with drinking.
Honestly, I love it, the tradition of sharing a drink with friends over a nice plate of barbeque, preparing for the Vols to dominate in Neyland (or so we hope).
The issue I have lies not in Saturday tailgates – although those have dwindled since the massacre of Fraternity Row – but with the other six days, when cops refuse to overlook the solo cups scattered around Rocky Top. Instead, they write citations and arrest more students for something an alumnus may simply receive a slap on the wrist for, i.e. public intoxication.
What a double standard UT upholds. The administration claims this is a dry campus, but when alumni who are funneling money into the university want to return and tailgate as they did in their prime, nobody seems to mind the alcohol on their breath and in their hands. But on any other given day, UTPD scolds individuals and bans chapters from campus for participating in the same actions they implicitly condone each Saturday.
No wonder students act confused as to what is and isn't allowed.
To those not in Greek life, it may not seem like there is a problem. But I cannot count the number of times fraternities on our campus have allowed non-members into their house on game day just so that everyone can have a good time in honor of the tradition that has been longstanding at our university.
As much as I want to think differently, and I often contemplate the reasoning behind letting the drinking slide, I cannot rationalize the concept any other way, aside from the potential donors the university would lose who are conveniently less liable than students if intoxicated on campus.
I think we should consider being a wet campus, or stop UT's tailgating, look-the-other-way tradition and then see how many people come back for games. A wet campus would increase safety by stopping 21-year-old students from trying to sneakily drink a lot of alcohol quickly (read: pregaming). Remember, it's not all underage drinking. Half of UT's student body – juniors and seniors – could be expected to be of legal drinking age during football season. And that is just the undergraduates.
I may be wrong, or the motives may be different, but the double standard held by UT and the bias shown by administration and law enforcement is a discouraging example to students. Some consistency would be nice.
Make UT wet more than once a week.
Annie Blackwood is a junior in communications. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.