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The smell of barbecued pig filled the air. Friends and strangers gathered around ice chests of cold brew, shared a beverage and prepared for the excitement to ensue. A ping-pong ball whizzed through the air, interrupted by a ker-plunk into a red cup. Cheers erupted. Just another great pre-game party — on campus?
“Because you see the tailgating and those kinds of things, I can see why people would be confused on whether we are dry or not,” said Melissa Swanson, a risk analyst for Cal Poly.
She isn’t the only one who felt the confusion.
In a recent Mustang News article on the subject, Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) President Jason Colombini was quoted saying a lot of students were questioning Cal Poly’s campus alcohol policies as to whether the campus is dry or not.
As ASI considers what students think about opening a bar on campus, administrators are reconsidering Cal Poly’s guidelines for alcohol consumption on campus.
“It hasn’t been a dry campus since I’ve been here, and it’s not,” said David Carroll, a Cal Poly risk manager for the past five years.
Carroll is one of several people seeking approval for alcohol distribution on campus as they navigate Cal Poly’s permission process.
The first stop is Campus Catering, which is an extension of the Cal Poly Corporation.
Campus Dining can host meetings, ceremonies, receptions, academic gatherings and other social events.
The most common types of event requests are for receptions, which are mostly held in the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center, Carroll said.
Once an alcoholic service request form is filed, it is sent to the University Police Department (UPD) for consideration. Risk management officials then receive the request to assess whether the event could cause harm to the campus community. If cleared there, it is finally sent to the vice president of administration and finance for approval.
“It’s important to note that some department has to sponsor it,” Carroll said. “So there is a purpose. It’s not a purpose of getting together and having alcohol, it’s a purpose of a social meeting … As long as it’s managed well, why not? It makes the event nicer.”
In addition to campus functions, there are several sporting events on campus during which alcohol is served.
In recent years, Athletics has hosted tailgating events before each home football game.
Those interested in this newly-implemented tradition can purchase parking spots in the designated tailgating areas on South Perimeter Road and Campus Way for $300 for a season pass or $50 per game.
Associate Athletics Director Chris Baker believes the tailgating parties have transformed the football fans’ experience.
“I think it has made people change the way they’re going to do their game day activities,” Baker said. “It’s changed the game day atmosphere.”
Cal Poly alumna Jorja LaBarre, and a team of 11 other business administration students, worked with Home Team, an organization that gives back to Cal Poly football through donations by its members, to enhance the pre-football game experience for fans during fall of 2012.
“Its like a community,” LaBarre said. “It’s a very relaxed tailgate, at least the ones I’ve been to.”
Her team coordinated with Campus Dining, UPD, parking and Cal Poly Athletics to ensure tailgating events on campus are managed responsibly.
Before LaBarre’s team stepped in to help Home Team enhance tailgating, it was contained solely on Campus Way, south of Spanos Stadium.
Per the team’s suggestion, the tailgating areas now include South Perimeter, the street leading directly to the stadium from campus.
“The football players, cheerleaders and the band parade down before the game,” LaBarre said. “So people get a sense of seeing the team, and the team gets to see their supporters, and it’s nice.”
Alcohol is also served at Baggett Stadium in Krukow’s Klubhouse during baseball games, until the middle of the seventh inning. The Klubhouse is reserved for Cal Poly Stampede Club members and corporate sponsors who give financial gifts to the baseball program.
Libations are also served in the eight suites adorning Spanos Stadium during sporting events. These suites are in high demand and are leased for five years. They are available to Stampede Club members who can shell out $15,000 each year during the five-year lease, according the Cal Poly Athletics website.
There is a place on campus where it doesn’t cost $15,000 a year to drink alcohol legally. That place is Poly Canyon Village (PCV), the on-campus apartment complexes.
If all students in one apartment are of legal drinking age, they can go through a process with PCV’s coordinator of Student Development and get approval to drink alcohol in the comfort of their on-campus home.
The process involves meeting with the coordinator of Student Development to address students’ responsibilities and housing’s policies regarding alcohol consumption on campus.
One of those policies is that alcohol cannot be consumed from a common source, such as a keg or punch bowl.
“I think that students who are 21 and who are choosing to follow the process and are mature and responsible enough to do that, it’s not an issue,” said Carole Schaffer, associate director of University Housing.
There are more students of legal drinking age living on campus than ever before because of PCV, Schaffer said.
“There’s a whole developmental phase I think you go through in terms of accepting what it means to have responsible use of alcohol and to take that seriously,” she said.
The common thread that runs through these campus alcohol policies is responsibility. Whether you choose to celebrate with football fans at a tailgate or have a glass of wine before a symphony at the PAC, Cal Poly administration wants of-age students to have the freedom to enjoy alcohol responsibly on campus.
“It’s evolved to this over the last few years,” Carroll said. “(Vice President of Student Affairs Keith) Humphrey’s whole approach is trying to have students be more responsible about it and to avoid some of the problems we’ve had in the past.”