Law students battle with administrators over alcohol policy

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo
Law students spent the last three weeks lobbying officials to lift social restrictions that limit the number of events at which organizations can provide alcohol.

Officials decided this week that law student organizations can again register to serve alcohol at events, withdrawing a widely criticized sanction that was the result of one group’s misstep.

Students have spent the last three weeks battling top officials over the restriction, which banned the Student Bar Association, the umbrella organization for law school groups, from holding more than 10 alcohol-related events this semester.

The group was given “social restriction status” by the Center for Alcohol and Drug Education after one group promoted a happy hour on its undergraduate listserv, said the leader of one law student group, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The Student Bar Association told students this week that they would resume the 17 already-scheduled events over the next few weeks before the sanction is officially lifted March 10, according to an email provided to The Hatchet.

“We are pleased with this outcome,” the email read. “We are hopeful that moving forward the SBA can work with the Law School and the University to amend the alcohol policy to reflect the concerns raised by law students and faculty.”

University spokesman Dave Andrews confirmed that the group had received social restrictions, but said that status would last until the end of the semester.

“Those restrictions may be lifted earlier if the SBA appropriately registers, advertises, and holds its events throughout the next several weeks,” he said, adding, “The event registration procedures are no different from those that the university has been using since the beginning of the year.”

The controversy spread nationally after a disparaging post by the popular law student blog “Above the Law” late last month, which attacked GW’s alcohol policies as “embarrassing and ludicrous.”

The policies prompted one student to organize happy hours for law students unaffiliated with GW using a Facebook group called the Underground Bar Review, which attracted more than 700 members in two days, according to the blog. But the students ultimately called it off, fearful of disciplinary action, the blogger wrote.

Nicole Tyrell, chief of staff of the Student Bar Association, said the student who created the Facebook group was not affiliated with the organization. She added that the Above the Law post “was full of misinformation and distorted facts.”

Graduate students have long fought against the Center for Alcohol and Drug Education policies, which hold groups to the same standards as undergraduates, requiring groups to register all events with alcohol and meet a certain ratio of sober monitors to guests.

The University’s alcohol safety office recently completed a two-year review of its policies for law student organizations last fall. Under the revised policies, the Student Bar Association does incur additional fees to host events with alcohol.

But law student leaders have continued to push for more relaxed policies compared to undergraduates.

“Most law schools are all like ‘OK, congregate, you’re all above 21, we don’t care as long as you’re off campus,” the student organization leader said.

Still, Georgetown and Vanderbilt universities require groups to register any on-campus events with alcohol.

Georgetown students must also receive permission to host off-campus events with alcohol and hire a third-party vendor to serve the drinks.

Like GW, Vanderbilt also requires students serving alcohol at on-campus events to have completed a training program that stresses responsible management.

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