Seniors who will be under the legal drinking age by May of next year will not be allowed to participate in Senior Week, confirmed Stephen Pagios, the assistant director of student center & campus life and adviser of Senior Week.
According to Pagios, the presence of alcohol at every event is the main reason why seniors who are under the legal drinking age can’t participate. Obtaining liquor permits and signing contracts with each venue are both “big processes” and pose obstacles.
“We have to sign agreements with all the places that we go to saying that everyone going is 21,” Pagios said. “When we are going to Oakdale or Holiday Hill or Terminal 110 as we did last year, we reserve the whole place. It’s not really feasible for these places to allow some people to drink alcohol and not others.”
Makeda Sutherland is one senior who isn’t permitted to attend. She won’t turn 21 until July 2012, two months after Senior Week. “I want to be the one that makes the decision whether to go or not,” Sutherland said.
“I’m sure they’re doing activities besides drinking for the whole weekend. I don’t need to drink to be a part of a lot of the events. It’s Senior Week and it’s an experience we should all have together,” Sutherland said.
Approximately 800 seniors participate in Senior Week. During the three days leading up to graduation, they stay in the freshman dorms and attend various events organized by the Senior Week committee. Events include a party at the Oakdale Theatre and afternoon activities at the Holiday Hill resort. Alcohol is available, but not included in the $295 cost students must pay in order to attend.
Senior Andrew McDermott, one of the Senior Week coordinators, added in an email that if more of the events were on campus, there would be more flexibility regarding who could attend. However, most are off campus.
There is one way to get into Senior Week without being 21: working it. There are 22 juniors on the Senior Week committee who work at the events. They are not allowed to drink and must wear a T-shirt that designates them as staff.
“They are two different kind of parties,” Pagios said. “The juniors are not there for the Senior Week experience. They are there to make sure it happens. The only beverage they are getting is water and they are making sure things are running smoothly.”
McDermott compared them to security in uniform.
Pagios added that everyone has the opportunity to attend Senior Week once. Those who couldn’t participate the year of their graduation could come back the following year as alumni.
“I don’t think I would come back,” Sutherland said. “It’s not my 2012 classmates. We have our own special bond, so it just wouldn’t be the same.”
Senior Nicole Peloso, 21, said she thinks it is completely unfair. If venues are going to be strict about drinking, they should be able to check IDs or have underage students wear something that symbolizes that, Peloso said.
“We all spent four years here. We’ve all put in the time. You can’t discriminate just because of age. It isn’t Senior Drinking Week, it’s Senior Week so it should be available to every senior here,” she said.
McDermott agreed that it “stinks” for those who will not be able to participate, however the committee has “to look on behalf of the majority.”
According to Pagios, it all comes down to the legal side of things.
“I think one of the stipulations to this is that we need to tell [the venues] that we’ve checked that everyone is 21. Once we start getting into that ‘well 799 are 21 but five aren’t,’ it starts getting a bit hazy.”
Correction: This article originally said that alcohol will be supplied and was included in the $295 cost students must pay in order to attend. In fact, the university will not supply alcohol, and the $295 cost for students does not include alcohol.