Washburn’s alcohol policy comes with loopholes

Matthew Kelly / Washburn Review

The answer isn’t always crystal clear.

One fact is certain: Washburn University has never regularly allowed the use of alcohol on campus since it was founded in 1865. However, there have been events allowed to include alcohol on a case-by-case basis.

The Kansas Alcoholic Beverage Control division requires that events including alcohol on campus be catered by a licensed organization. At Washburn, Chartwells Catering fills that role.

 “Chartwells is the provider that serves alcohol on campus. Everything has to be done through them because they have the license to serve through the state Alcohol Beverage Control,” said Kathy Reser, director for the Memorial Union.

Reser added that catering through a licensed organization such as Chartwells is the only legal way to serve alcohol on campus, and that there are no other legal options in terms of serving alcohol at approved events.

In order to include alcohol at an event on campus, a student or alumni organization must submit a request for alcohol at least 20 days prior to the event. This process allows Chartwells the time necessary to acquire approval and permission from both President Jerry Farley, and the Alcohol Beverage Control Division.

“Dining services will generate an alcohol request form to be signed by the group making the request, the office of the University President, the Campus police, Dining Services and we in turn send a request to the Kansas Alcohol Beverage Control,” said Bruce Scoular, catering director of Chartwells. “Chartwells holds license to provide alcohol service on the Washburn campus.”

Chartwells has hosted events that have included alcohol such as weddings, corporate events and alumni events.

Scoular added that Chartwells and the university would not approve the use of alcohol at an event in which alcohol is the main focus, and that they limit their approval to events that merely use alcohol as an “enhancement of the event.”

 “If alcohol is the sole focus of the event, then we strongly discourage using Washburn for the event,” said Scoular.

Susie Hoffmann, the director of the Washburn Alumni Association, agrees that approval from the university depends on the amount of alcohol intended to be served. Hoffmann has coordinated numerous events on behalf of the association, and is well aware of the process involved in gaining approval to serve alcohol.

“They’ll look at whether it’s a cash bar or whether it’s hosted, whether we’re providing complimentary alcohol based on how much alcohol you plan to serve and how many people are attending the party,” said Hoffman. “You can’t order three kegs of beer when 100 people are going to show up. That’s just not a good idea. That’s too much beer for 100 people.”

Hoffmann said the application for approval requires that the applicant specify: The name of the event, the date and time of the event, the expected attendance, contact information from the host, the name of the organization providing the alcohol, the type of alcohol to be served, and the approximate quantity of alcohol to be served.

The applicant must also specify whether the event is to include a cash bar, the cost is to include alcohol, or the alcohol is to be provided without charge.  

Hoffmann also clarified that student organizations as well as other Washburn organizations have gone through the same process as the alumni association in gaining approval from the university to serve alcohol on campus.

“Everybody fills out the exact same form. They go through the same channels and ultimately that form goes to the president’s office for approval or disapproval of the university president. There shouldn’t be any discrepancy,” said Hoffmann.

 Every event on campus that is to include alcohol must also be submitted through Chartwells, with the exception of tailgate parties.

As stated in the Facilities Use section of the Washburn University Policies Regulations and Procedures Manual, alcohol may be permitted at tailgating activities, but is not allowed to be carried into any of the athletic venues such as Yager Stadium. It is also not permitted to sell alcohol at tailgate parties without permission from the university. There must also be non-alcoholic beverages and food present in order for alcohol to be allowed.

The Washburn alcohol policy has the support of many of the employees and faculty at Washburn. However, some of the students disagree with the policy, and would like to see it changed. These students feel that allowing alcohol on campus would help the university to become more of a social environment, and would give students incentive to stay in Topeka for their weekend activities.

Washburn student, Dave Clark is particularly passionate about the issue of alcohol not being regularly permitted at Washburn.

“I feel like Washburn is such a non-traditional campus in the first place, that there’s not a lot of opportunity for social interaction and activity, especially on the weekends, because everybody goes home or they’re just not around,” said Clark. “Also, there’s not a whole lot to do in Topeka, so it just doesn’t make sense to me why a college campus would be so anti-drinking when it would be better to have policies in place that allow you to drink and allow you to regulate it and make sure that it’s done in a safe way.”

Clark also disagreed with exceptions made by the university with regards to alumni events, and argued that, although this can help the university to raise funding through alumni donations, this reflects poorly on the degree to which the university values it’s students.

“I can understand from wanting to be able to have good relations with the alumni they raise money for the school and everything, but they should care a little more for the students as well, not just the alumni. It should be dry all the time, or wet all the time,” said Clark.