Half Empty? or Half Full?

Being labeled with the “party school” stigma, symbolized by UVM’s inclusion on Princeton Review’s top party school list, has always antag?onized University officials in the past. Indeed there was love lost between the University and the Review until the school finally fell from the Princ?eton Review pantheon of party-hardy schools. As then-Provost John Bramley said, “I think the whole review is question?able … nevertheless we are pleased not to be on that list.” But even when UVM’s social scene fell from the national radar, student revelry was still gauged as inappro?priate by school officials. Eventual?ly, changes were enacted within the University in order to “… create a quality learning environment in an atmosphere that is safe, scholarly and respectful.” UVM’s alcohol policy was revis?ited, outlawing drinking in campus housing – effectively illegalizing booze across all the residence halls, even for of-age students. “Before, people would be, like, drinking in the hallways,” Resident Assistant Chantal Champaloux said. “There’s just not the partying there was before.” The opposite side of the law says otherwise: “I know I haven’t [been drinking less due to the new policy], because people drinking at my age is against the law any?way”, a sophomore who wished to remain nameless said. “Breaking two rules at once isn’t going to stop me any more than breaking one.” Police presence is as strong as ever and quieter halls testify to UVM’s apparently toned-down party culture. But, with the new Brennan’s Pub and Bistro be?ing built in the Davis center, it is uncertain how this monopoly on campus alcohol consumption will affect on-campus drinking trends next year. According to Pat Brown, the director of Student Life, the pub’s inception and the new al?cohol policy were coincidental, not mutually exclusive. He said that after talking to students, the consensus was that “we need to have a place that people can have something to eat, have some beer, have some wine, watch some TV. So the whole idea came out of those conver?sations.” Whatever the reasons for the pub, as the one legitimate place on campus where students can gather over spirits, it holds a unique position. Will it be a pre-game spot before hockey and basketball games? Or maybe a pre-game spot before class? According to Brown, the capacity will be about 185 people, but whether a party breaks out is up to the students. “It wasn’t that we wanted to encourage drinking, we just wanted a place on campus that had that kind of atmosphere,” Brown said. Some students think that an on-campus bar may defeat the purpose of the weekend: to forget about school and drink with your friends, most often,downtown. “No, I don’t think I’d go [to the pub] because you can’t bar hop,” senior Kate Fanning said. “Bar hopping is key.” Brennan’s Pub is not meant to com?pete with downtown venues. In fact, Brown said that the hours of operation will likely be shortened on the week?ends for that reason. Further, there will be no hard liquor sold at Bren?nan’s, so a gin and tonic will require a walk – but at least it’s downhill. Sodexho, the company that now manages the University’s dining ser?vices, will manage other specifics of the bar like beer brands and securi?ty. Local breweries will likely supply beers, an idea that reflects Student Life’s attempt at keeping small busi?nesses in and big corporations mar?ginalized. Issues of drink limitations and ID checking will be left up to them, not an oversized bouncer. “Making sure that people are of age, making sure people don’t drink too much really belongs to them,” Brown said. “They hold the liquor license, the University doesn’t. So they’re going to be as vigilant as they can … to make sure someone doesn’t pass a beer to someone else, those kinds of things.” Legal liability may lie with So?dexho, but whether students drink at Brennan’s at all is a personal choice – one which students may be wise to take advantage of, because it’s partly funded with heightened student fees. Because students helped pay for the pub (and other parts of the Davis Center), some have expressed concern that with a monopoly on on-campus alcohol sales, the University will make an exponential profit without low?ering costs to students. Whether student fees or tuition costs will decrease remains to be seen. “We’ve done our best to pre?dict what the income is going to be and what the expenses are go?ing to be,” Brown said. “But until we actually get in the building and have a full year of operation, we sort of don’t have a clue.” Conspiracy theorists may be upset, but Brennan’s Pub and Bistro will likely contribute to the campus’s overall draw and eventual growth; plus you can remedy a ‘D’ on an exam with a tall glass of Blackbeary Wheat. Whether binging or enjoy?ing a brew, Brown says “It’s trying to find the right balance, particularly as we go into it completely new. I think that the goal would be to make sure there isn’t an abuse or misuse of alcohol, but we create an en?vironment where people feel welcome.”