As President David R. Anderson’s ‘74 career at St. Olaf comes to a close, it’s time to take stock of what will constitute the St. Olaf of the future and what direction incoming president Susan Rundell Singer should steer the Hill. For student life, the college’s alcohol policy stands out as one in pressing need for reform. It is an artifact of a college that no longer exists.
Any discussion of St. Olaf’s dry campus policy must begin with a basic fact — that the dry campus is a fiction. St. Olaf students drink, and they drink a lot. According to the latest available National College Health Assessment data, Oles are more likely to drink than the average American college student. A majority of Oles who drink binge drink regularly, and when they do, they are estimated to reach a higher blood-alcohol content than other college students. The dry campus is, as absolutely any student could tell you, wet.
If we start with the factual grounding that Oles continue to drink – and drink heavily – despite school policy, we can parse what the policy really means for student life.
Our campus’s dry campus policy means drinking happens in the most favorable conditions for problem drinking, and for the development of alcoholism — in private, alone or in small groups, unmoored from other pro-social activities, and without the supervision or social pressures of non-drinkers. It encourages the widespread on-campus practice of heavy, sometimes dangerous, “pregaming” of dry events. Without the option to grab a beer at a concert or bring a spritz to a picnic, Oles opt to pound out a night’s worth of drinking in a half-hour before hitting the town — something harmful to students’ health and to the health of the events. Placing drinking in a quasi-legal status whereby it violates the student code of conduct, but does not break the law for over-21 students places a further onus on student organizers. They must now police the level of acceptable intoxication and produce events that maintain the fiction of a dry campus. All of this occurs in an environment that operates against the likelihood of responsible consumption.
St. Olaf prides itself on preparing students for a life of real vocation, rather than turning out cloistered liberal arts grads unfit for a life of networking over drinks. Advancements in the career preparation offered by the Piper Center, the incredible career learning opportunities on-campus and off, our world-class study abroad programs: all encourage Oles to become well-rounded people prepared for the real world — a world that is full of happy hours and cocktail parties, not dorm binges and casino night pregaming. In our college’s bid to become a school of national recognition — and to attract more students from across a broader range of origins — it must reconsider its most obsolete practices.
We, the students named below, urge the next president’s leadership team to establish an exploratory body and timeline for transitioning St. Olaf away from a dry campus policy:
John Emmons ‘23 Managing Editor, The Olaf Messenger
Grace Klinefelter ‘23 Executive Editor, The Olaf Messenger
Charlotte Smith ‘24 News Editor, The Olaf Messenger
Kenzie Nguyen ’26 News Editor, The Olaf Messenger
Teague Lars Peterson-McGuire ‘23 Vice President, Sigma Tau Delta
Gretchen Ellis ‘23 President, Pi Sigma Alpha
Sebastian Pham ‘23 President, Student Government Association
Caroline Geer ‘24 New Student Orientation Coordinator
Caitlyn Pelikan ‘24 Senator, Student Government Association
Martha Slaven ‘24 Variety Editor, The Olaf Messenger
Grace Barton ‘25 Senator, Student Government Association
Brock Lawhead ‘23 Senator, Student Government Association
Donovan Roddy ‘25 Senator, Student Government Association
Alli Hering ‘25 Sports Editor, The Olaf Messenger
Sophia Pletcher ‘24 President-Elect, Student Government Association
Anthony Calderon Reyes ‘26 Senator, Student Government Association
Zaria Irving ‘25 Senator, Student Government Association