Allowing drinking at student tailgate safer

Can we all just stop kidding ourselves? The student tailgate issue isn’t about underage drinkers crashing the party, it’s about the safety of the student body. As weird as it seems, allowing drinking on campus is safer than shutting down the party.

The presence of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission – more informally known as the cops dressed like cowboys with badges who write tickets at events with alcohol for seemingly no reason – demolished attendance at the student tailgate last year. To its credit, a fair amount of the citations written were legitimate violations of state drinking laws, such as false identification or minor in possession, but that’s not the issue.

The problem is that the TABC doesn’t need to be present in the first place. The underage drinking that occurred on campus last fall likely saved lives. By eliminating the impaired driving of a few thousand underage TCU students who will drink before football games regardless of the location, you exponentially increase the safety of that event.

I recognize and respect the TCU administrators who have reached out to TABC in an effort to work something out. We invite TABC to have meetings on our campus and have worked diligently to somehow level with each other, but our efforts haven’t given us our desired results.

As far as student leadership, SGA president Thomas Pressly was quoted in a recent Skiff article about the student tailgate saying, “You don’t need alcohol to enjoy yourself.” That’s true, I agree. However, a few thousand underage TCU students are going to drink before football games wherever they decide to tailgate.

So what can we do until we get the Brachman parking lot tailgate back to free-flowing Keystone and live music? Most fraternities have moved off campus and have house parties or rent out bars. Even if that sort of event involves charter busses, some people will still drive drunk, and you have taken the TCU spirit out of game day. Some began “tailgating” – I’ll use that term loosely considering they couldn’t see the stadium while doing so – as early as 8 a.m. before the rainy Stanford game. It’s a shame students would put so much into supporting TCU athletics, yet the school is unable to create an on-campus venue similar to other successful Division I football programs.

And by the way, if you thought TABC was an ethical leader (like our mission statement encourages us to be) because they are partially funded by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, think again. According to an independent investigation by Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyers, TABC agents routinely spend tax dollars as “patrons” at Dallas nightclubs. In a July blog post on its Web site, entitled “TABC Still Wasting Tax Dollars At Dallas Strip Clubs,” author Robert Guest explained how much fun TABC agents had while dropping $400 or more on lap dances and – you guessed it – alcoholic beverages, when doing “undercover operations.” Would MADD be surprised to learn that its efforts encourage wasting taxpayers’ money on beer?

Here’s my challenge, TCU – pool your resources and affect change. You’ve got some pretty powerful and well-connected parents and alumni, which, if willing and summoned, could make things happen. They could probably convince Texas legislators to ask TABC to change its enforcement policies and avoid presence at universities in the interest of student safety. A few thousand underage students are still consuming alcohol before games, but this season many of them have and will continue to choose to drive after drinking. If you want student attendance at home games, you have to let them consume alcohol near the stadium. That’s not necessarily how it should be, but it’s how it is, and I’ll take safety over false justice any day.

John Andrew Willis is a sophomore environmental science major from Dallas.