New alcohol policy could kick up costs for student groups

Student organizations could be required to dole out extra cash to hire insured bartenders because of a new alcohol policy written to help reduce GW’s legal liabilities.

Student leaders who met with administrators this month expect a new policy will include a streamlined event registration process – a key piece of recent lobbying. But the policy reportedly would force groups to hire insured vendors with bartenders and require food be served alongside any alcoholic drinks.

The proposed changes are expected to come within the next week after a nearly two-year review of the University’s alcohol policy.

While administrators would not speak to policy details publicly, leaders of the Student Bar Association, the Student Association and Greek life explained the policy proposals shared with them. Some said imposing extra costs on student groups would cause financial hardship.

Alexis Janda, the Center for Alcohol and other Drug Education’s associate director, declined to provide information about the policies, but said feedback from student leaders “has impacted our decisions.” She said some possible pieces of the proposed policies “will not happen,” but declined to elaborate.

“We recently began another round of outreach to seek additional, final input from students and student leaders on a few specific proposed modifications we plan to enact this fall,” Janda said in an email.

Nicole Tyrell, the Student Bar Association’s chief of staff who has worked with GW to reshape its alcohol policy, said Janda and Senior Associate Dean of Students Mark Levine indicated that the mandate to hire insured vendors would likely remain in the policy.

“We are now having to figure out where we are going to be able to get that extra funding from to be able to meet those requirements,” Tyrell said. “Everything is up in the air right now, depending on whether we can get additional funding for vendors.

Tyrell said Janda planned to share the last round of changes to the policy during a meeting Friday.

If finalized, the reworked policy will also squeeze money out of student organization budgets by requiring food to be available at all events with alcohol, even at a cash bar where attendees purchase their own drinks.

The Student Bar Association is considering requesting additional funds from the SA to comply with the policy, Tyrell said.

SA President Julia Susuni said any appeals in response to funding shortfalls from the new policy would be addressed on a case-by-case basis, but pointed to the SA’s $241,843 co-sponsorship fund as a potential source of money.

During her meeting with University administrators on the alcohol policy, Susuni said she suggested the University work with vendors to offer discounts to student organizations or pitch in more funds.

“I would love to see if there could be some funding from some kind of department within the University to sort of compensate, or to help student organizations out,” Susuni said. “I would love to see them taking on more of a role in terms of making this – if this proposal does become a policy – something that isn’t such a financial burden.”

The changes will come two years after the Student Bar Association began lobbying GW to clarify language in its alcohol policy and loosen the rules for graduate student groups. That pressure from student groups ignited an overhaul of the alcohol policy that covers registered student and faculty events.

The revamped policy would also help cut down red tape to register events.

Staff advisers would be allowed to approve events, cutting out extra layers in the registration process. The policy would also require signatures from just two sober monitors to complete event registration paperwork, instead of from all the sober monitors required to attend the event.

Additionally, students who go through Responsible Alcohol Management training one time would be able to test out of the requirement to take the training again two years later, a change the Student Association pushed for.

The revised policy is also expected to formalize changes for graduate students in effect since last fall that reduced the sober monitor ratio from 1-to-20 to just one monitor for every 50 attendees.

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