Westminster College's campus alcohol policy may be closer to dry than wet

A 1946 photo from Westminster College's Etosian yearbook shows students enjoying a cup of coffee at the Do-Flop Inn. The Do-Flop Inn has since closed down, and today's students can't walk around campus with alcohol or have alcohol in common areas of the dorms where underage students may live. Photo courtesy of Westminster College's Etosian yearbook.

A 1946 photo from Westminster College's Etosian yearbook shows students enjoying a cup of coffee at the Do-Flop Inn. The Do-Flop Inn has since closed down, and today's students can't walk around campus with alcohol or have alcohol in common areas of the dorms where underage students may live. Photo courtesy of Westminster College's Etosian yearbook.

In 1946, a Westminster College student of legal drinking age would have been able to go to the basement of Converse Hall and enjoy a drink at the Do Flop Inn, a student-run bar. 

Although the Do Flop Inn no longer exists, Westminster is still considered the only non-dry campus in Utah and markets itself that way in the resident life section on its website. 

But in Utah, the difference between a wet and dry campus may not be much.  

“I always thought there was a no-alcohol policy on campus,” said Michael Kaly, a 1992 Westminster alumni, in an email.  

A photo from Westminster College’s Etosian yearbook of the Do-Flop Inn located in the basement of Converse Hall during remodeling period. Students all pitched in to the remodeling of the Do-Flop Inn adding a stove, eating area, and Ice Cream machine. Art students decorated the walls to make it a more cheery place for students to spend time. Photo courtesy of Westminster College's Etosian yearbook.

A photo from Westminster College’s Etosian yearbook of the Do-Flop Inn located in the basement of Converse Hall during remodeling period. Students all pitched in to the remodeling of the Do-Flop Inn adding a stove, eating area, and Ice Cream machine. Art students decorated the walls to make it a more cheery place for students to spend time. Photo courtesy of Westminster College's Etosian yearbook.

Though considered a non-dry campus, Westminster still has to abide by all Utah alcohol laws.  

“We’re just enforcing Utah state law,” said Mark Ferne, dean of student life and chief of student affairs.  

This means that unlike similar campuses located in Florida and California, students are not allowed to walk around campus with alcohol and can't have alcohol in common areas of the dorms where underage students may live.  

Elaine Sheehan, a junior English major and residence assistant (RA) in Behnken Hall, said all residence halls except Stock Hall and Westminster on the Draw are considered dry, since many first-year students live in them.  

"Even if you're over 21, you are not allowed to own [alcohol]," Sheehan said. "You're not allowed to have it even in your personal room in [Behnken Hall]."  

Because Westminster is a private college, it's able to make the decision to be a damp campus. Alcohol is allowed at events on campus as long as the event coordinators fill out the proper paperwork.  

"We do allow alcohol to be at events if you go through the proper channels for faculty and staff and alumni receptions," Ferne said. "I know we allow alcohol to be served to students if they are of legal age if they are at one of these private events under the parameters that have been established."  

In contrast, state-funded schools like the University of Utah in Utah are required by Utah state law to be dry campuses.  

However, there are ways around this. According to the University of Utah's website, alcohol is allowed on campus on game days for tailgating on University property. 

Westminster students recently received an email about changes to the campus alcohol policy. Generally, there is a 30-day comment period for new policies and edits to old policies. However, he said the changes to the alcohol policy primarily affect faculty and staff who are hosting events on campus that will have alcohol. For this reason, the policy was not sent out to students for comments and questions.  

A 1946 photo from Westminster College's Etosian yearbook shows the Do-Flop Inn, Westminster’s campus bar, which was located in the basement of Converse Hall. Today, the Do-Flop Inn no longer exists and some students say Westminster College's campus alcohol policies are closer to dry than wet. Photo courtesy of Westminster College's Etosian yearbook.

A 1946 photo from Westminster College's Etosian yearbook shows the Do-Flop Inn, Westminster’s campus bar, which was located in the basement of Converse Hall. Today, the Do-Flop Inn no longer exists and some students say Westminster College's campus alcohol policies are closer to dry than wet. Photo courtesy of Westminster College's Etosian yearbook.

“I, in my role as chief of student affairs officer, get these policies and I say, ‘Is this affecting students in some way? Should they comment on it?'” Ferne said.  

The policy that makes Westminster a damp campus may be limited, but Sheehan said it opens up conversation and allows for education on the subject.   

Sheehan said she hosted a campfire at the start of the semester that allowed students living in her hall to anonymously submit questions, fears and concerns they had about alcohol and discuss them as a group.  

"I think that’s our emphasis—a healthy balanced lifestyle," Sheehan said. "Educate instead of discriminate."