By Oliver Heffron
After a meeting between Dean of Students Marichal Gentry (C’89) and undergraduate student leaders on September 11, the new Social Host Policy was amended to address the concerns students had previously voiced through a student proposal authored by Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s president Carter Falk (C’20) and sent to the Vice-Chancellor’s office. The student leaders included representatives from the Order of the Gown, Student Government Association, Honor Council, Student Conduct Board, Greek council leaders, and several Greek chapter presidents.
The main concern of the students’ proposal was the policy’s wide-ranging definition of an event as “a gathering hosted by individual students or one or more recognized student organizations.”
Students feared this definition could eliminate the spontaneous gatherings on campus due to the extensive regulations every social gathering would be subject to. Sewanee has always had an incredibly inclusive and unique social culture, but students worried that this aspect of the University could evaporate under the new policy.
The day following the meeting between student leaders and administrative representatives, an email sent from Gentry to all students presented the agreed amendments to the Social Host Policy. The changes center around a clear difference between ‘events’ and “Spontaneous Gatherings” and the expectations for each.
Gentry stated, “We understand and value the importance of students being able to gather together to build community and strengthen relationships. The amended policy will account for spontaneous gatherings and will not require registration in advance, regardless of the number of people gathering,”
Dean Gentry explained further that, “While these [spontaneous] gatherings do not require registration in advance, we encourage the hosting organizations to implement risk management procedures to create an atmosphere conducive to safe, fun socialization.” To Gentry, this requires checking IDs for legal drinking age and marking all over-age attendees.
By creating this distinction between ‘events’ and ‘spontaneous gatherings,’ the administration has acknowledged the student leaders’ concerns and demonstrates some administrative trust in student’s discretion in maintaining a safe environment, when stricter regulations are not required.
Another main point of the proposal was the agreement among students that the regulations introduced in the initial University Social Host Policy were still necessary for larger, planned events. Social organizations will still need to implement these practices at larger events to improve student’s safety.
In his email to students, Dean Gentry explains, “all events’ (which are planned social activities that have been advertised or that include a band, a DJ, inflatables, or other attractions) must be registered 10 calendar days before the event is scheduled to occur. These events must be registered in Sewanee Engage.”
This is a drop from 14 to 10 calendar days from the initial policy. Gentry describes a scene all Sewanee students can recognize and helps clarify exactly what type of social gathering that students will need to prepare for and maintain.
Requiring ID checkers was another area students desired more clarification. To that issue, Gentry stated, “For BYOB events, there will not be a check-in list for people who attend the event. However, organizations will still need to check IDs or pay for an ID checker to distinguish which students at an event are of legal drinking age and permitted to possess and consume alcohol.”
The requirement of keeping an accurate list was a cause for concern for students, and this amendment clarifies that the main focus is to identify who is of legal drinking age and who is not.
One of the major concerns of students was the responsibility of students to check IDs and keep track of who is underage at an event. Many students worried that they would not be able to differentiate between a fake and real state-issued ID card and who was accountable if someone used a fake ID.
In a follow-up email, Assistant Dean for Campus Life, Lauren Goodpaster, clarified this concern by distinguishing that only university-issued IDs would be checked at gatherings, for students who plan to bring and consume alcohol. More explicitly, she stated that ID checkers should trust that no fake IDs are presented, and “a violation of this will rest upon the individual presenting the fake ID (not on the ID checker so long as they are not knowingly accepting a fake ID).”
Trained sober monitors are still required for planned events. Gentry’s email relayed that sober monitors will be expected at a ratio of one monitor for every 25 attendees. “Organizations should establish this number by making a good-faith estimation of event attendance during the event planning process.”
This amendment clarifies that this rule will is not inherently punitive in regards to keeping the exact ratio, but more emphasizes the need for social organizations to train and ready enough sober monitors to maintain their events properly.
These amendments directly address the fears of student leaders surrounding the new policy, worrying that it would eliminate the ability for Sewanee students to spontaneously socialize and congregate without the fear of administrative backlash.
The changes were written with an understanding of Sewanee’s social environment and a hope to maintain its unique identity, while improving student safety and responsibility. These amendments should reassure campus community leaders that the University ultimately respects their intellect, wishes, and impact on Sewanee’s identity.