For those who like to wash down their brats with a cold one at the tailgate gatherings held in College Park prior to home Bearcats football games, your day is at hand.
Reversing decades of policy, the Northwest Missouri State University Board of Regents on Thursday voted to allow campus alcohol consumption in controlled locations during specific types of events.
Otherwise, Northwest will remain a dry campus with stricter alcohol regulations than ten other Missouri universities that currently allow drinking under some circumstances. Four others still bar drinking completely, according to Campus Police Chief Clarence Green.
In addition to three parking lots adjoining the park to the north and west, other drinking-allowed sites will include enclosed luxury boxes at Bearcat Stadium and the Gaunt House, the campus' official presidential residence.
The regents also OK'd the serving of alcohol at selected special events regardless of location, provided they meet university requirements for security and food service. Gatherings such as weddings and reunions will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, Green said.
Northwest will not itself sell alcohol, according to Vice President of Student Affairs Matt Baker. Instead, those who lease luxury boxes or host banquets and receptions will obtain it through the university's food service provider, Aramark. Tailgaters will be allowed to bring their own beverages.
One wrinkle in the new policy could be an ongoing debate by the Maryville City Council regarding age limits for entering bars and taverns. Included in that discussion is the possibility of a ban on drinking in public, a so-called open-container law.
Should such an ordinance pass, Green said, the university would seek an exception from the city.
Regents Chairman Mark Hargens asked Green and Baker how the university planned on keeping alcohol-allowed events from getting out of hand, especially when students are in attendance.
Green responded that permitting alcohol would simplify enforcement at tailgate gatherings because officers could simply ask drinkers for ID rather than trying to determine if a plastic cup or soft-drink bottle contained alcohol.
He added that he believes "community policing" efforts, such as meetings with fraternities and other student groups prior to football games, will head off most problems before they start.
Regent Pat Harr called the new rules "really good policy" that will allow the university to take control of an issue that has always been problematic. Campus officials, including Green, have long acknowledged that drinking is already a regular occurrence in the park on game days.
Regent Gene Dorrel and Baker both said that allowing alcohol in controlled environments is simply an acknowledgement of reality, since, according to Baker, more than 80 percent of Northwest students say they drink.
Dorrel said the university's responsibility was not to "insulate" students from alcohol use but to "make them responsible and hold them accountable."
Page 2 of 2 - In other business conducted during a meeting with a very crowded agenda, the regents approved a 1.7 percent across-the-board tuition hike for the 2013-'14 academic year, the most allowed under Missouri's tuition cap, which is tied to inflation as registered by the Consumer Price Index.
In-state undergraduate tuition will go up about $100 a year for the average student, from $174 per credit hour to just over $178. Most students take about 28 hours worth of courses during the fall and spring semesters combined.
Room and board rates are also going up, with meal plans increasing, on average, $62 per student per year, and residence hall rates increasing by about $94. Added together, the price hikes mean students will pay just under 3 percent more next year to eat and live on campus.
The regents also approved increases for several fees. A per-credit-hour minimum wage charge used to pay student workers will increase from $3 to $3.50. Other hikes include the activities fee, which will go from $2 to $3; the academic equipment fee, which will raise from $5 to $6.35; and a technology fee, which is increasing from $14 to $16.
Northwest Vice President of Finance Stacy Carrick said Gov. Jay Nixon has recommended a $34 million appropriation for Northwest next year, and increase of $1.2 million. However, rising expenditures for retirement, health insurance, utilities and other costs are expected to consume most or all of any new state funding.