“Harry Bailly” is a contributing writer on Leavenworth St.
Senator Tyson Larson is at it again, with another alcohol related push in the Legislature. Lest readers think me some kind of Puritan, I take a backseat to nobody in the (mostly responsible) enjoyment of distilled spirits and other such beverages.
Also, I was in college once, and (shh, don’t tell anyone) I occasionally drank, even before I was of legal age. (N.B.: I did not attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and in fact my alma mater did not have an alcohol ban on campus, although alcohol was not—in a technical sense—allowed in dorms.)
Having established that I am not a Puritan, I am also not a prohibitionist. I have a strong libertarian streak. Live and let live. Small government. Robust social institutions tackling social problems instead of the state. Civic virtue. All that jazz. But giving college students a thumbs-up to drink on campus seems to me like a pretty serious liability issue, especially when university administrators know that a good number of the students on campus are under the legal drinking age. Who is going to be responsible for policing and monitoring the ages of drinkers? And when something bad happens, as something bad will, will the university be held liable because someone will make the argument that the university reasonably could have foreseen a preventable tragedy?
Kids will drink. We know that. Bad things will sometimes happen when kids drink. We know that too. Heck, bad things happen when adults drink too much as well. But while the motivation behind Larson’s proposal seems to be sound, the unintended consequences are potentially devastating.
And perhaps that is not what Larson and Schilz have in mind. Perhaps they are not thinking about turning the campus into one giant speakeasy, but rather contemplate some university sponsored events or parties with professional and bonded bartenders checking IDs. I have no problem with that.
The Legislature needs to remember too that Nebraska has a constitution, and the constitution envisions a board of regents to govern the affairs of the state university system. Nebraska also has a supreme court, which held in 1977—this is highly technical legalese—that the Legislature can’t just boss the regents around. The floor of the Unicameral is not the proper forum to be having this discussion.
Another thing I have no problem with is allowing beer sales at Pinnacle Bank Arena and Hawks Field during athletic events. (Memorial Stadium is likely another discussion.) I am told that at least one member of the board of regents is in favor of this idea, and it should be discussed. Servers could check IDs, and the university could use all or a portion of the proceeds from beer sales to fund programs to help students struggling with alcoholism and to provide alcohol abuse education. Chancellor Perlman says he will consider any option geared at reducing alcohol abuse, right? What do you say, Harvey?
Many of the potential problems could be ameliorated—or perhaps exasperated, who knows?—by lowering the drinking age to 18. But that is a discussion for another post.