COVID-19 has changed the way we live. There are changes present across campus, from Stav Hall to our dorm rooms. Sometimes it feels as if everything is different, but one thing that remains steadfast is the St. Olaf alcohol policy. Not only is the policy archaic, inexplicable and ineffective, it has real negative consequences on students creating unhealthy relationships with alcohol, such as binging, dependency and shame. These repercussions should be reason enough to overturn the alcohol policy, but the COVID-19 crisis creates increasing cause for concern.
As campus fully reopens, students have many practical questions, such as “when can I eat?” and “where can I go?” We are also wondering how new rules resulting from the pandemic will be enforced. If we look to the alcohol policy as an example, there is reason to be concerned that the College will be too relaxed when enforcing mask policies or room capacities.
If the College were to eliminate the policy of prohibition of alcohol on campus, the College would have much more credibility in enforcing its new policies. As long as the unenforced alcohol policy is present, the college’s credibility will always be undermined.
Credibility aside, the alcohol policy puts students and the College at greater risk for COVID-19 transmission. Students will still congregate and drink, and with the current policy there are essentially two options: hide in a small dorm room with groups of friends, or go out to bars in the Northfield community. Both are dangerous at this time, but the current college policies force students to make those choices.
Students would be much safer if the College allowed us to congregate and drink openly outside where there is plenty of space to socially distance. Students would be visible. The enforcement of mask policies and social distancing would be much easier. This visibility would also pressure students into making better choices and foster a better relationship with alcohol.
The alcohol policy stands in direct opposition to this critical goal in the era of COVID-19. Not only should the college eliminate the alcohol prohibition, it has an obligation to do so to keep the students, staff, faculty and greater Northfield community safe.
Mason is from Pine City, MN. His major is social work.