GW Law students campaign to adjust alcohol policy

Student leaders at the GW Law School are lobbying administrators to adjust the University’s alcohol policy, which holds graduate school groups to the same regulations as undergraduate organizations.

Rules laid out by the Center for Alcohol and other Drug Education require all student organizations to register their events and prohibit an open bar. CADE also requires that, for every 20 students in attendance, one trained as a Responsible Alcohol Manager must pledge to remain sober – even if each attendee is over the age of 21.

Adjusting the policy is especially pertinent to law students, President of the Student Bar Association Nicholas Nikic said, because the character and fitness portion of the Bar Exam requires all disciplinary action in a student’s history to be disclosed.

Under national regulations, students seeking to become lawyers must divulge all incidents concerning discipline and behavioral integrity.

“Nothing can be expunged from our record,” he said. “We are ethically obligated to report it.”

Others worry that socializing at local bars with a group of students affiliated with the same organization could jeopardize their records – as impromptu events can be seen as a meeting of the organization by CADE.

“It’s an adult population so the kind of events that happen are more adult in nature,” Nikic, 26, said, noting that practicing attorneys and judges are often invited to competitions and networking events that typically serve alcohol.

Failing to register an event where alcohol is served with CADE five days in advance could lead to a disciplinary referral, a policy that deters students from socializing, member of the Evening Law Student Association Sam Dillon said.

“Happy hour is an institution in D.C.,” Dillon, 28, said. “This policy doesn’t recognize the reality of being a grad student at GW.”

Assistant Dean of Students Tara Pereira said she expects the revision process, which began last year, to be completed this semester.

“We have met with students, faculty and staff to gather their opinions on how the alcohol policy works,” Pereira said.

The current policy has led to frustration and fear among students in the law school, Nikic, 26, said.

“There’s a chance that after three years of law school and nearly $200,000 of debt that, due to some possible investigation, I may not be able to become a lawyer,” Nikic said. “That’s real for us. Who would make that $200,000 bet?”

Pereira said drink tickets as well as security and sober monitor requirements were considered in the reevaluation.

Although he believes the policy must be restructured, Nikic noted the importance of alcohol education in the legal field, one that sees above-average rates of substance abuse.

“There’s education to be had,” he said. “We understand the risk management aspect because that’s what we study.”

Law school administrators and professors would play a large role in designing his ideal policy, which would include alcohol safety training, but eliminate the ban on open bars, Nikic said.

“Let us self-regulate. We’re adults,” he said.

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