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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Alcohol at dorms stirs up debate

Officials, students weigh pros, cons of drinking policy

Lobo Village plans to allow alcohol for of-age residents when the dorms open in August, but no one ran that policy past the City Council.

“It was never revealed to anyone here,” Councilor Isaac Benton said.

The City Council in November denied UNM’s requests for a liquor license at The Pit. Lobo Village, however, isn’t required to apply for a liquor license from the council since the establishment isn’t selling alcohol, merely allowing students to have it at its facilities. Regardless, Benton said he doesn’t support Lobo Village’s alcohol policy.

Lobo Village caters to older students who are of legal drinking age, said Walt Miller, vice president of Student Life.

“It’s geared toward the upperclassmen, which leads us to the key part that they have to be of legal age,” he said. “We’re not permitting freshmen to live there, so that’s forcing at least a couple years of students being likely to be 21.”

UNM’s alcohol policy applies to property owned, leased, or operated by the University. Alcohol consumption must comply with state and federal law and will be allowed only in private rooms, according to the Rules and Regulations sections of Lobo Village’s lease,
Lobo Village General Manager Brent McPherson said students under 21 found with alcohol or drunk will be punished.

Written into the lease, alcohol containers exceeding one gallon are not permitted on the premises. It says alcohol consumption is not allowed in common amenities and interior hallways, and keg-cooling devices are also prohibited.

The penalties for even the most minor violations of the Liquor Control Act include fines of up to $300, property confiscation and imprisonment for up to seven months, according to the policy. Serious violations carry greater penalties, with larger fines and longer prison time.
Lobo Village employee Ryan Benefiel said alcohol violations will be handled case by case.

“It’s not my job to interpret the law,” he said. “It depends on each situation, but we will abide by those laws.”

John Steiner, program manager for the Campus Office of Substance Abuse Prevention, said that alcohol at Lobo Village isn’t ideal.

“My hope is that Lobo Village will be well-managed with respect to alcohol use, that guidelines for the use of alcohol are developed and put in place before students move in, and that those guidelines and legal drinking age laws are properly enforced,” he said.

Student Kelsey Grubb said that allowing alcohol at Lobo Village introduces potential for abuse of the rules.

“I think it’s stupid,” she said. “We’re a dry campus, and if some people have alcohol, then it will just be shared with everyone, including underage residents and guests.”

Student Romilly Tsinhnahjinnie said she doesn’t have a problem with Lobo Village’s alcohol policy.

“I think it’s fine as long as people pay attention to the law,” she said.