Section: Features

Legal drinking at Kenyon College

Legal drinking at Kenyon College

In the past semester, the Office of Student Engagement (OSE) has hosted a beer tasting, an art workshop serving wine and most recently an event in Peirce Pub that served spiked hot chocolate and eggnog.

“We’re making sure we have an appropriate amount of alcohol,” Kim Wallace, the associate director of student engagement, said. “We’re making sure that people aren’t consuming alcohol on an empty stomach. We’re making sure that we’re doing at least what the policy calls for student organizations today.” 

In March 2017, the Alcohol Task Force (ATF), a group of students and administrators assembled by President Sean Decatur, released the ATF final report, detailing the schools plans to encourage a safer, healthier drinking culture on Kenyon’s campus.

One of the items on their agenda was to “support the Office of Student Engagement’s efforts to fund … more Kenyon-sponsored events that encourage 21-plus students to drink responsibly.”For the beer and wine events, which required attendees to sign up beforehand, organizers checked students’ birth-dates through a Kenyon database before approving them, and their student identification cards were checked at the door. The hot chocolate and eggnog event was open-door, with AVI employees who possess bartending licenses checking identification, serving alcohol from behind the bar and ensuring that students didn’t overindulge. “We had hot cocoa with Baileys and Kahlúa,” Wallace said, “we didn’t have tequila shots.” The pre-registered events were filled to capacity. According to Wallace, the hot chocolate and eggnog event garnered 120 attendees in total.

“We hear upperclassmen say that they wish there was something to do where they could have a drink, and it wasn’t just beer from a keg, or it wasn’t just cheap wine from a box,” Wallace said.

According to Vice President for Student Affairs and Chair of the ATF Meredith Harper Bonham ’92, Kenyon student’s attitudes towards drinking are changing, with many students having little to no exposure to alcohol before matriculating. “When my generation [of Kenyon students] saw their parents socialize, the alcohol flowed more freely, but the world has changed in terms of expectations of keeping students safe,” Bonham said. She attributes this change to contemporary social attitudes and increased diversity in socioeconomic background.

Before the formation of the ATF, one 21-plus event has run annually for decades: Senior Soiree, a mid-fall, formal wear celebration for the senior class hosted in Thomas Hall. Soiree, which features an open bar, has garnered a reputation for a high rate of Good Samaritan calls and hospitalizations of intoxicated students. The Senior Class Committee, overseen by the OSE, hosts the event. This year, an email sent out by Sriya Chadalavada ’19, senior class president, asked seniors to control themselves during the festivities, warning that the previous Senior Soiree had the highest rate of hospital runs that year.

“We would hate for someone to ruin a beloved tradition,” Wallace said.

So far, there have been no reports of extreme or dangerous intoxication from the 21-plus events hosted entirely by the OSE. “We wanna make sure that we’re doing our due diligence hosting these events, that we’re modeling what we expect of students on Friday and Saturday nights,” Wallace said. Most of all, the administration wants to see Kenyon students have fun.

“I think of Summer Sendoff and being able to see students enjoying themselves, to be able to have more events like that throughout the year, where students are having a really great time and interacting in a way that maybe they wouldn’t normally interact? That’s fulfilling for us,” Wallace said.

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