CROOKSTON, Minn. — Of-age students who choose to complete an alcohol education program will be able to drink in dorms on the University of Minnesota-Crookston campus.

Shortly before they turn 21, students will be able to participate in educational programs aimed at fostering “a healthy and responsible culture of drinking in on-campus residence halls among students of a legal age,” the university said in a news release.

After completing the programs, and after turning 21, students can earn drinking privileges on campus. Those privileges would mainly be relegated to drinking in campus residence halls, with drinking allowed at certain events that are approved by the chancellor.

The new policy — to take effect before the fall semester — is meant to be a comprehensive alcohol education program for students, according to Savala DeVoge, dean of student engagement.

“This isn't something we view as being a gateway to becoming a party school or as a gateway to becoming a rambunctious residence hall,” DeVoge said.

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DeVoge estimates that there are fewer than 50 students who are 21 or older and live in the residence halls that could be part of the program. She said the campus where she previously worked had a similar program; while students there had drinking privileges, many never enacted them.

“This is a way for students to model responsible behaviors by being a good community member and a good neighbor,” she said. “And for those students that can't be that kind of model and good neighbor and good community member, they just won't have that (drinking) privilege.”

UMC’s on-campus alcohol policy will provide an educational strategy to promote various aspects of responsible drinking as well as strategies for intervening, referring and/or reporting peers who engage in high-risk drinking or other harmful behaviors often associated with consuming alcohol.

Students who earn drinking privileges will be issued a new student ID, one that includes a drinking privileges designation. Students must comply with state law and conduct themselves in a manner that supports the health and safety of others. Students who violate the policy will be subject to disciplinary actions, which may include temporary or permanent suspension of drinking privileges on campus.

Most campuses require students to complete some sort of alcohol education-related training when they start as freshmen. DeVoge said UMC's training takes that a step further by giving students expectations of how they should handle certain alcohol-related situations.

“If students want to be part of this program, it continues that education,” she said.

The policy fits within broader wellness programming at UMC, DeVoge said.

In the past, students were not able to consume alcohol on campus, which led them to go to bars, restaurants and off-campus locations where they are in a minimally structured environment, Vice Chancellor John Hoffman noted.

Students who want to drink will drink, DeVoge said. It's a fact that comes with certain risks.

“When we make it a taboo subject, or when we try to hide it, or when we try to ban it, students take part in more risky behaviors in order to do those things,” she said.

“If a student wants to have a beer in their residence hall room, they're not driving,” she said. “They know exactly who gave them the drink, they know exactly what's in it. And they don't need to worry about getting home at the end of the night in a safe way.”

DeVoge said some students will follow the rules closely and some may test the boundaries of the policy. She said the university hopes to address issues that come up with a restorative justice and educational approach, noting that students who break the rules can have drinking privileges revoked.

“My first goal is to make sure that students are doing this responsibly, and in a way that is not going to harm themselves or others,” she said.

Hoffman said the university plans to take a “strong community focused approach to enforcement.”

“We really think about (the residence halls) as a place where students learn to live in a community,” he said. “As within any aspect of living within a healthy community, that means engaging with your peers. And when you see behaviors that are concerning, when you see something, say something.”

He added that residence life staff will help with enforcement.

The idea of implementing this policy was first brought up more than a year ago, but most of the work began after DeVoge arrived on campus last summer. The policy went through several layers of review and discussion with the university’s student association before it was finally approved.

It’s expected to be implemented in the next several months, Hoffman said.