The price of overconsumption

Dal to update their policy on alcohol to better tackle consumption culture

A poster in the Killam library violates university alcohol policy. Photo: Julia Manoukian

Among the smorgasbord of advertisements on the Killam library bulletin board, two posters blatantly break university alcohol policy.

One poster, belonging to Environmental Programs Student Society (EPSS), advertised free drink tickets for a Green Beer event. Another promoted “Student Nite” Thursdays at Pacifico with $3.00 drinks.

The EPSS Society was warned about the intent of their poster. Photo: Julia Manoukian

In Dalhousie’s current alcohol policy, advertising the cost of alcohol for events, on campus or elsewhere, is not allowed. The policy also states free alcohol products are not to be promoted, unless the License Administrator grants special requests.

It took more than a week for Dalhousie administration to remove the posters.

“Alcohol consumption is a problem all universities deal with,” says Zane Robison, Chair of the Alcohol Advisory Committee and Executive Director, Student Life.

Robison says in this case, the society was warned. But if it’s an ongoing problem, the society could “lose privileges.”

In his two years at Dal, Robison has never seen a society lose privileges due to alcohol promotion on campus.

Members of the society have both been unavailable for comment.

Janice Tate, manager of Dalhousie’s University Club where the society hosted the free drink event, says the society seemed like they had no intention of promoting binge drinking.

“It was just a weird, one-off. I think things are pretty sane [at Dal].”

Tate adds she was surprised the event co-ordinators didn’t know of the university’s policy, because student societies get “drilled” in their training.

Recent Restrictions

Since a student at Acadia died in 2011 from reportedly drinking 40 ounces of alcohol at a frosh week party, Canadian universities are adopting new strategies to demote drinking culture.

In response to the death, Nova Scotia’s Chief Public Health Officer released a 44-page report on reducing alcohol harms among university students.

Some of the recommended policies include:

    • Only permitting drinking in designated areas of residences’ during frosh week
    • Training groups of students to intervene when they see risky drinking behavior
    • Banning drinking games like flip-cup and beer-pong
    • Banning drinking trophies from residence rooms like liquor or wine bottles

Nine out of 10 Canadian university students drink alcohol, and 32 per cent reported drinking heavily at least once a month. That percentage was higher – 51 per cent – in Nova Scotia.

Third-year economics major at Dal Steven Gallant is against censoring the price of drinks in advertising on campus.

The greater the gap between student life and city life, he says, “the more it takes away from the already suffering social scene (on campus).”

Dal is only part of the larger city, he says. “So the effect is lost.”

Steve Gallant enjoys a pint at the Grad House. Photo: Julia Manoukian

Tate says it’s tricky to create student communities and still stay safe. “The last thing is if something happens, and every university holds their breath for that – if a kid gets hurt drinking. That’s the worst thing that can happen to the school.”

In 2008, the province set a minimum price of $2.50 for alcoholic drinks.

Robison says Dal is working on a draft of its alcohol policy, so the university can “restrict alcohol advertising on campus more robustly than what we currently have.”

Robison says he hopes a draft of the report will be completed within the next eight months.