The University's implementation of new polices regulating social events has sparked confusion and discontent from the undergraduate community, but for most graduate students, event planning has been business as usual. In fact, various graduate student leaders have said they were completely unaware of the new proposals to change the regulations surrounding graduate student social events.
On Sept. 22, the Provost's Office released a document outlining proposed changes to Penn’s alcohol and drug policies. In the document, the proposed changes were coded in red and the existing polices were coded in black. These proposals, which came after recommendations made by Penn's Task Force on a Safe and Responsible Campus Community, included a section specifically addressing social events held by graduate and professional student organizations.
If approved by the Provost's Office in December, these regulations would stipulate that graduate and professional students register all of their organizations' events with administrators in their home school. When hosting events on campus, they would also have to seek approval from the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives.
Executive Director for Education and Academic Planning Rob Nelson said the initial guidelines failed to clarify which rules applied to graduate students and that the new proposals only intend to formalize the procedures that graduate student groups have already been following.
“I don’t know if there’s anything major on campus that’s going to change because of the section on graduate and professional students,” Nelson said.
Although undergraduate students have responded to the possible changes with confusion and concern, various graduate student leaders were completely unaware of the new regulations, despite some communication between the University and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly about them.
Nursing Ph.D. student Rosario Jamie-Lara, who is on GAPSA's executive board, was a member of last year's task force and recently, the Provost's Office and the Vice Provost for University Life communicated the proposed changes to GAPSA. Miles Owen, GAPSA's president and a third-year School of Design and Fels Institute of Government master's student, said he received an email from administrators with the policy revisions and was instructed to disseminate them to graduate students.
“There will be a little more awareness that [graduate student events] have the proper security and the right sober people. It just adds another level of safety to the events," Owen said. "But I don’t think [the policies] will fundamentally change anything.”
He added that GAPSA's executive board is reviewing the language of the policies to ensure that they will work well for graduate students.
Andrew Gunn, the vice president of social for the graduate student government of the School of Arts and Sciences, SASgov, was not aware of the proposed policy change outlined in a document dated Sept. 22.
Gunn, who is a Ph.D. student in earth and environmental science, said that this semester, he has planned and executed two on-campus events for around 200 graduate students, both of which included alcohol.
He booked a room and security guards for the events, and other organizers booked bartenders from the University-approved list. Gunn said these procedures have been followed by previous VPs of social for on-campus events in past years.
Although he adhered to University guidelines while organizing the event, Gunn expressed frustration that at one of his events, AOD briefed the bartenders to fill each glass with only two ounces of wine, but failed to tell him about this before the event. He said that this limit made the party less enjoyable because attendees had to wait in long lines to refill their glasses.
Noelle Melartin, the AOD director, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Chair of the School of Social Policy & Practice Student Government Rebecca Weingarten, who is pursuing a master's degree in social policy, said the only recent change around event regulations that she was familiar with was a switch in the portal used to book University-approved bartenders. This was not one of the proposals outlined in the document.
When Weingarten planned the SP2 Student Government kickoff party on Sept. 1, the bartender she booked cancelled three days before the event because of the new portal.
“I’m very wary of the new system,” Weingarten said. It "is more of a hassle in that we had a rapport with the bartenders that were available through the old system.”
Regardless of the new proposals, Owen is confident graduate students will continue hosting social events safely without much need for intense oversight.
“We’ve all been to the big undergrad parties, but that for me is ten years ago,” he said.
“Grad students do like to go out but … we already have the systems in place to take care of things when they get out of hand.”
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