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Drunk and Educated: Who’s Responsible? (Part Two)

15 March 2012 No Comment

Do the bar room blitz

After listening to Kennedy’s entire story, it sounded as if schools were only enabling this type of behaviour. If students that are arriving on campus expect a lifestyle taken straight out of Animal House, shouldn’t a post-secondary institution be doing something to educate or at least prevent it from happening?

Funny thing is after researching and speaking with numerous academics, counsellors and school reps, I have yet to find a single major college or university in Ontario – or Canada – that doesn’t serve alcohol to its students. McMaster University here in Hamilton even has two at opposite ends of its campus. Mohawk College is no different, housing both the newly renovated “Arnie” and an old, historical root cellar cleverly known as “The Cellar”. The Mohawk Students’ Association oversees and staffs both of the licensed bars, which are conveniently connected to one another. Each week the MSA hosts events in The Arnie during common hour and puts on a themed pub night every Wednesday, which attracts a fair amount of partially sober students looking for cheap or “competitively priced” drinks as the MSA describes it.

Serving alcohol during school hours and inviting students to attend something like “Country Pub” in the middle of a school week might appear counterproductive (I feel certainly feel it is), but the MSA says it has the bigger picture in mind.

MSA President Dan Clark

“It’s sort of a double-edged sword in the sense that we are providing this service for students,” says Dan Clark, President of The Mohawk Students’ Association. “Looking at studies, there have been a few articles that have been published in the Toronto Star that state people typically learn to drink while they’re in college and what we try to offer is a safe place for them to do that. There’s definitely a fine line and we’re really conscious of that.”

As for the Thursday morning hang over, Clark says that’s not something the MSA, or any bar, has control over. Even though it’s a bar’s responsibility to ensure your safety, what happens the next day is totally on you.

“That’s more personal prerogative to go wasted from the night before and to go to classes the next morning,” Clark says. “Obviously people do it and I’m sure all of us have done it at some point, but I think students are here for the right reasons and they’re here to learn that they can control and manage themselves on a Wednesday night and, of course, can let their hair down a couple nights. Again it’s more that safe environment for students to do it if they choose to is what we’re really concerned about.”

Clark says they staff fully trained bartenders during school hours and extra security during their events to help maintain control over the situation. On pub nights, students must pass through two checkpoints before gaining entry to the event. Security is given the authority to deny entry to anyone that is already heavily intoxicated, acting belligerent or on their list of banned students.

No matter how it’s dressed up, the student’s association is encouraging students to party in the middle of the week, enticing them with cheap drinks. That alone is too much for most college students to pass up. So each week The Arnie fills up with students shirking their academic duties, while the MSA benefits from your patronage.

For an organization that is supposed to have everyone’s best interests in mind, they sure have an odd way of showing it. Clark admits that after the staff and expenses are paid, pub nights actually make money. No surprise there. He couldn’t give any numbers offhand, but says it only costs around $700 to open the doors, but that doesn’t include staff wages.

So what’s stopping the MSA, an organization that isn’t supposed to run a profit, from raising their drink prices to prevent a few from ever reaching a student’s mouth?

“We were finding that students were coming here and because it was three dollar drinks, students were just getting blitzed drinking too much and not managing it because it was so cheap,” admits Clark. “So we thought we needed to increase the price a little bit, and obviously it’s still a good price for drinks, but hopefully it would deter people. People come into the bar with $25-30 – you know that’s a lot of alcohol you can consume at three dollars a drink.”

Yes, it certainly is. So I asked Clark what safeguards were in place to prevent students from abusing the current system. Their main policy is a two drink per purchase limit. That’s it? He assured me that getting more than two drinks within a short span of time would prove to be difficult because line ups create a lengthy wait time and bartenders keep tabs on who’s buying what.

It sounds like a devil-may-care approach to liquor control. Actually, it sounded like a challenge.

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