newsMarch 17, 2024
SEMO revises policy to allow of-age students to consume alcohol in dorms starting May 13, 2024, after a campaign by Young Americans for Liberty, aiming to enhance student safety and living experience.
Emma Kratky

Southeast Missouri State University has recently revised their Alcohol Beverage Usage Policy for on-campus housing to allow students above the age of 21 to consume alcohol in their dorms.

This change comes after a multiple year campaign from Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) and has garnered both positive and negative feedback.

Associate Vice President of Student Life for Campus Life Dr. Bruce Skinner said the two main reasons the policy was changed included other schools moving towards being a wet campus and an understanding that for some students, the dorm is their permanent residence.

“We consider it their home and we know for some of them, pets and alcohol in the room is part of what they’re looking for in a living experience,” Skinner said.

The new policy will officially go into effect on May 13, 2024. Skinner said students will have to abide by certain regulations regarding bringing alcohol into their dorm rooms. He said the students must carry the alcohol in a non-transparent bag, and it can not be seen by Resident Assistants (RA’s) or other students in the lobbies, hallways or lounges.

Skinner said these policies will be in the Residence Life Handbook in mid July of 2024.

YAL, a national student activism organization, played a large role in promoting students’ dissatisfaction with SEMO being a dry campus.

SEMO student members, including former State Chair for YAL Cassidy Klein and Vice President Abbey Spengel, created petitions for students to raise awareness of the current campus policy and to promote change.

According to Klein, the first petition was created in the fall of 2022 and was delivered to the office of the University President, Carlos Vargas, on Nov. 16, 2022. Another petition was created in the fall of 2023 and delivered on Oct. 11, 2023.

Klein said the second petition had an increased number of signatures, as both herself and Landon Tourville, another former State Chair for YAL, enlisted the help of Barstool SEMO to garner more student interest. Barstool SEMO is an Instagram page dedicated to posting memes and other content related to SEMO and its community.

Midwest Regional Director of YAL, Matthew Dunmire, also worked with the SEMO YAL chapter. He said a big part of his job is to work with students to help change policies that violate their freedoms.

Dunmire said he was happy with the policy SEMO changed, and a big factor in this policy change would be an increase in student safety.

“Students are gonna drink if they’re of legal age, and it’s just a lot safer if they’re on campus in the safety of their dorms,” Dunmire said.

Abbey Spengel also said she thinks it will increase student safety.

“I think it’s going to be very beneficial because it’s not going to have as many students drunk driving,” Spengel said. “It’s going to be a little bit safer that they are now allowed to [drink] on campus.”

Skinner said he did not think the change in policy could be attributed to student petitions and said it was more about the question arising if students should be able to drink on campus.

Even with this new policy change, Skinner said he does not believe it will increase the rates of students living within the dorms. Skinner said students who are above the age of 21 are usually looking for increased privacy, including their own kitchen and bathroom.

In a press release by SEMO announcing the policy change, it was listed that 85% of students living within residence halls were under the age of 21. The other 15% of students who will be of legal drinking age within the dorms had a mix of opinions over the new alcohol regulations.

Junior computer science major Muna Haque was not in favor of students being allowed to drink in the dorms. She said due to previous negative incidents that included alcohol in the dorms, she is wary of what the change will bring.

“If I have to face the consequences of [other students] being drunk…I’m not ready to face that,” Haque said.

Junior general studies major Blake Bolin said he was in favor of the policy as it will allow students to be in a safer environment while drinking.

“I think there’ll be a lot of change and opportunities for students to experience what it is like to live in the college culture,” Bolin said.

The concerns of rising crime rates can sometimes be tied to allowing students on college campuses to drink in their dorms, according to Project Know. Skinner says he does not think these numbers will rise on SEMO’s campus after looking at data from other schools, including Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville, who reported similar low crime rates, even with students being allowed to drink.

Skinner said university funding will not be impacted, as the policy within the dorms relates to the Residence Halls only. These halls are funded by the students who live within them.

The Board of Governors made the decision to change the policy and Skinner said any future need for changes or revisions will go through the Board as well.