Cowley: The U’s Dry Campus Policy Does Little to Protect Students


Kevin Cody

Someone holds a drink in Bar X in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. (Photo by Kevin Cody | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Elle Cowley, Multimedia Managing Editor


People associate college culture with alcohol consumption. If you told students here that the University of Utah is a dry campus, many probably wouldn’t believe you. Fraternities at the U notoriously throw large parties where alcohol is extremely accessible. This leads to unsafe situations within the parties, as highlighted earlier this year when two cases of sexual assault were reported from fraternities at the U. Although the U is a dry campus, an unhealthy drinking culture perpetuated by the student body puts students in danger.

As a dry campus, the U strictly prohibits the possession and consumption of alcohol on campus, regardless if you’re under the legal drinking age or not. Being caught with alcohol can lead to serious disciplinary action and can even lead to arrest. Disciplinary action can also be carried out if you have alcohol paraphernalia, such as beer bongs, pong tables and empty bottles. You may also be written up for intoxication, even if the alcohol was consumed off campus or in the instance of an emergency, such as alcohol poisoning.

Despite all these consequences, the title of “dry campus” fails to cut down alcohol consumption in the student body. If anything, dry campuses drive students to drink in unsafe environments away from campus. Studies done on different universities with different alcohol policies have shown that dry campuses do little to deter drinking. Oftentimes, dry campuses move the drinking from on campus to off campus. Fraternities at the U often have their parties at places called satellite houses, which are off-campus but still owned by fraternity chapters.

This year, all Greek life activity was suspended for two weeks following two reports of sexual assault in two different fraternities. Leaders of Greek life also had to attend meetings with the administration addressing the incidents in question. The cases reported only make up the tip of the iceberg, as many incidents of sexual assault that happen at fraternities go unreported.

Fraternity parties have notoriously high levels of drinking, creating an unsafe environment for those attending. Parties with high levels of binge-drinking also experience higher rates of sexual assault, driving under the influence and alcohol poisoning.

Popular apps among college students such as Yik Yak give us a snapshot of the drinking culture at these parties. Posts on the app detail stories of roommates coming home drunk or people looking for places to drink. In the wake of the two reported sexual assault cases, Yik Yak was flooded with stories of assault at different frat parties and details about how people felt too scared to come forward.

Although the U suspended Greek life activities in the aftermath of the reported sexual assault cases, parties resumed as normal after two weeks. Instead of addressing the issues in Greek life that perpetuate sexual assault, they received a slap on the wrist and continued on as normal.

If the U truly wants to keep their students safe, they will take more time to educate the student body on safe drinking practices and employ more harm reduction strategies instead of pushing all drinking off campus. Allowing students over 21 to have alcohol on campus allows universities to better supervise student alcohol consumption. The U shouldn’t penalize students that seek medical transport for excessive alcohol consumption. Creating an environment where students can learn to drink in a safe way will encourage responsible drinking and hopefully minimize incidents of alcohol abuse. The U can post about how the campus is alcohol-free and substance-free all they want, but they have not done nearly enough to keep their student body safe.

Alcohol can be consumed safely in moderation, but college drinking culture creates an environment that normalizes frequent, heavy drinking. The current culture of drinking to access puts students in unsafe situations. We all need to reassess the way we view drinking to create a safer environment for the entire campus community.


[email protected]