Graduate students test new alcohol policy

The University began testing changes to its alcohol policy last week, tweaking the number of sober monitors required at graduate student organization events that serve alcohol.

Permanent changes to the policy – including event registration procedures and Responsible Alcohol Management training – are expected to roll out next spring, a top University official said Friday.

This pilot program comes in response to lobbying by members of the Student Bar Association, who said they were unreasonably held to the same alcohol regulations as undergraduate student organizations.

Law students, who must disclose any disciplinary history on the bar exam’s character and fitness section, fear that inadvertently breaking the University’s alcohol policy may have long-term effects on law students of legal drinking age.

Graduate students began working with University administrators to change the policy this fall. They voiced concerns that adult members of a student organization attending an off-campus happy hour without advanced registration were technically violating GW’s Alcoholic Beverage Consumption and Distribution Policy.

Last week, the University allowed the Student Bar Association’s annual Halloween party to have fewer Responsible Alcohol Managers than normally required.

The pilot event tested a 50-to-1 ratio of attendees to Responsible Alcohol Managers, a decrease from the usual 20-to-1 requirement, Assistant Dean of Students Tara Pereira said. Pereira is the acting head of the University’s Center for Alcohol and other Drug Education, which trains “sober monitors” in alcohol poisoning identification and prevention.

“From everything I’ve heard, it went perfectly fine,” Pereira said.

President of the Student Bar Association, Nicholas Nikic, agreed that the off-campus party went smoothly, but questioned the significance of sober monitors at all.

“I just don’t see the practical effect of having them around,” Nikic, 26, said of the Responsible Alcohol Managers. “I personally believe I am able to regulate where and when I drink.”

The alcohol policy is University-wide and previously did not distinguish between graduate and undergraduate student organizations. It applies to all student events, including those hosted at off-campus venues.

Student organization events must be registered with CADE five days in advance, a snag for law students hoping to socialize at city happy hours.

The pilot 50-to-1 ratio will also be tested at the Diwali banquet, hosted this week by the South Asian Law Student Association.

A committee of Student Bar Association members is working to develop a proposal for the University that would change its procedural alcohol policy as well.

The committee wants to streamline the process of registration by making it in-house through the law school or by putting it online, a possibility Pereira said may come in the spring.

Pereira insisted that “finite details” are not yet official, but Nikic said he appreciated the University’s cooperation.

“In a way, they are responsible for us,” Nikic said.

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