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Staff, students say Westminster’s drinking culture is ‘unique’ and good for community

Students, staff and faculty attend the Florence J. Gillmor Hall grand opening, an event where alcohol was served to legal-aged patrons, on Sept. 16. Westminster College’s wet campus is different from other Utah schools and brings a sense of belonging to the community at events, according to Carlie Hiatt, a senior psychology major.  Photo courtesy of Westminster College Office of Marketing Communications and Events. Image description: A room of 8 people stands around a cocktail waitress and she hands out drinks.

Westminster College’s wet campus is different from other Utah schools and brings a sense of community belonging at events, according to Carlie Hiatt, a senior psychology major. 

“Being able to come together and explore a culture more, or listen to a band play music on campus with a glass of wine makes the Westminster culture so much more unique compared to other campuses,” Hiatt said in an email. 

A dry campus refers to a college or university which does not allow alcohol on campus, as defined by Best Colleges, so a “wet campus,” is a broad term used to describe some level of alcohol permitted. 

One of the reasons larger colleges in Utah are dry campuses could be that [alcohol is] harder to control, and Westminster’s small size helps with that control, according to Pamela Shields, director of events at Westminster College.

Hiatt said she has attended multiple events on campus with alcohol. One event, in Spring 2022, was a wine tasting. 

The event provided an opportunity for legal drinking-aged students to taste and learn about wine, as well as hang out with friends, family and other students, according to Hiatt.

“The wine tasting was an amazing experience,” Hiatt said. “It was fun to have a space to have a drink and have fun talking among friends, classmates and professors.”

Shields said events with alcohol are beneficial for faculty and staff relationships. 

“It’s good comradery to have whatever it is […] a wine tasting or a tailgate that has beers before you go to the game,” Shields said. 

These events with alcohol also help some alumni, staff and faculty feel engaged in the community, according to Shields. 

The graphic shows the process for holding an event on campus with alcohol. Westminster College’s Alcohol Service at College Events Policy provides potential hosts with the requirements to be completed before the event. Graphic courtesy of Vanessa Eveleth. Image description: a tan and blue graphic with the written out process of holding an event with alcohol. 

“[Alcohol being allowed on campus is] really convenient,” Shields said.

However, to have alcohol at an event on campus, certain requirements must be met both before and during the event, according to the Alcohol Service at College Events Policy. 

Those hosting an event are required to secure a space with the campus scheduling office, according to the policy. Then, they must fill out an alcohol authorization form and permit after contacting the risk management coordinator, according to the policy. 

“[The risk management coordinator] makes sure all the rules are being followed [and] all of the liability is taken care of,” Shields said. “One of the biggest things is we don’t want anybody underage [drinking] or [anyone] being overserved.”

For this reason, a bartender is required at events with more than 25 people, according to the Alcohol Service at College Events Policy.

With gatherings of less than 25 people, a faculty or staff member may choose to be liable in lieu of having a bartender, according to Shields.

Shields said there are “a lot of risks associated with having alcohol,” which means campus patrol must be notified of the event and its details, according to the policy. Shields said legally, events with alcohol must be marked as private, too.

“It’s very specific that every event with alcohol will have a ‘private event’ sign,” Shields said. 

Carlie Hiatt, a psychology major with an emphasis in cognitive science and sociology minor, said the wine tasting event she attended in Spring 2022 was a good way to form new relationships. 

Hiatt said, “When at these events, you feel more like an adult making new friends and networking rather than just being seen as a student.”

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Madi Goddard (she/her/hers) is a third-year communication major minoring in French at Westminster College. She excels at finding ways to spend money but enjoys reading books and decorating for holidays in her downtime. Her favorite animal is a dog and she swears she’s never met one she didn’t like.

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