With the introduction of the University’s new alcohol pilot program, many student groups are thinking about how on-campus parties will shake up Penn’s social scene.
On Oct. 19, the recently approved program — which received the Undergraduate Assembly’s endorsement Sunday night — will begin accepting applications from student groups planning to host on-campus registered parties.
Among other changes, the alcohol pilot permits mixed drinks at certain on-campus events — the first time this has been allowed since the University Alcohol and Drug Policy was passed in 1999. It also opens up more on-campus spaces for events with alcohol.
For some student organizations, the new pilot program is a welcome change from the complicated process of planning social events today.
“We have in the past looked for different avenues of hosting both large and small-scale social events, but it’s always difficult working with the system as it was before,” College senior and Mask and Wig Chair Ryan Dew said. “This is incredibly interesting especially for us as a non-fraternity that likes to host social events.”
Yalla, Penn’s belly dance troupe, sees the program as an opportunity to bring annual events like Hafla, a party featuring drum and dance performances, to campus locations such as Houston Hall.
“We tried to have it at houses of members in the past, and it doesn’t work out as well because you need the space to be good for a party,” Engineering senior and Yalla Vice President Michael Plis said. He added that while Yalla will have to weigh considerations like security guard costs, “this is definitely something we’d look heavily into.”
College senior and Lambda Alliance Political Chair Jake Tolan, who sat on the Alcohol Policy Review Committee, believes the new pilot will benefit Penn’s LGBT community, since the LGBT Center may now be used for some events with alcohol. The center, Tolan said, “tends to be a safer place for a lot of people.”
He added that the pilot program is the right response to a change in college alcohol culture over the years.
“The reality is that kids want hard liquor,” he said. “We want to set up the safest place possible for it [by] facilitating that culture without demeaning students in any way that would drive them off to a less safe area to do the same activities.”
UA members echoed Tolan’s concerns about safety and social equity — two of the factors that prompted the policy revision process.
“I think it’s a good chance for safety, transparency and being able to have a good time — allowing them to coexist, not sacrificing one for the other,” College sophomore and UA Representative Nolan Burger said.
Other groups, however, do not see the pilot as applicable to their current social offerings.
College and Engineering senior and Strictly Funk Chair Victor Garcia believes the program, though attractive in theory, may not be as widely used as the administration is hoping.
“People will most likely still hold off-campus events,” he said. “For Strictly Funk, if it’s an event that’s with other groups, we might take advantage of [the pilot program], but for our group, having the events off campus — downtown or in people’s houses — makes it more personal.”
Wharton senior Lisa Kapp — who serves as president of Asian-interest sorority Sigma Psi Zeta — said that because the program limits attendance at events with mixed drinks to under 150 people, her group will not be able to use the pilot for many of its events.
College junior and West Philly Swingers Communications Chair Andrew Musser said that while his group would consider taking advantage of the pilot, off-campus options like BYOs still serve as viable alternatives for the group if it ever feels “constrained by the alcohol policy.”
In addition to these student groups, Penn’s Greek community will also be affected by the pilot program. One of the main goals of the pilot is to expand the University’s on-campus social scene beyond chapter houses.
College senior and Panhellenic Council Vice President of Public Relations Alyssa Drobatz said the program will make hosting events like date parties and alumni gatherings much easier. Although the National Panhellenic Council bans alcohol in sorority houses, the ability to host on-campus events with alcohol outside of chapter houses “makes it simpler and safer to host successful events,” she said.
“I understand why the University is doing this, because it’s easier to regulate things when parties are on campus,” Multicultural Greek Council President and College senior Jacqueline Baron said. “If people abide by the new pilot policy, there shouldn’t be any issues.”
Renting out spaces like Houston Hall’s Hall of Flags is nothing new for the MGC, but the possibility of serving alcohol at events is.
“MGC organizations use Houston for fundraising [events],” Baron said. “There was a smaller turnout of upperclassmen because no alcohol was served.”
College senior and Panhel Vice President of Risk Management Lakshmi Sivaguru, who served on the APRC, emphasized that the Event Review Board — a peer-moderated way to address student group infractions of the pilot policy — represents the administration’s “sign of faith in the student body.”
College senior and Interfraternity Council President David Shapiro, who also served on the APRC, believes the new alcohol pilot is beneficial to all student groups.
“The goal was to bridge the gap between Greeks and non-Greeks,” he said. “It would be a mistake to look at the policy as only affecting Greek organizations. We made sure the policy is friendly to Greeks and non-Greeks and bent over backwards to make sure every student group was included.”