Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Carson: Beer tent won’t stop vampire weekend at NU

If a beer garden opens and nobody drinks there, does it help calm Evanston residents down?

That’s the philosophical question Northwestern hopes to answer with the new Dillo Day beer tent, coming to a Lakefill near you. It’s the latest step in the effort to keep undergrads on campus during Dillo Day – and more importantly, away from their off-campus neighbors.

In a year where a measly tailgate landed Northwestern on the national party radar courtesy of the blogosphere, both town and gown have an uneasy eye on the festivities this weekend. At a “Conversation with the President” on Wednesday, Morton Schapiro went as far as to tell the crowd “I hope we survive Saturday.”

In that same “Conversation with the President” talk, Schapiro also talked about how us students “stay up all night like vampires,” disturbing our beleaguered Evanston neighbors. But if Morty Van Helsing and his merry band of vampire hunters don’t find an answer to the mounting tension between students and their neighbors, it’ll be the Evanston residents out for blood.

And believe it or not, the Dillo Day beer garden is one of the first steps in the right direction that I’ve seen in my four years – because the only realistic way to curtail the off-campus drinking is to move it back onto campus and away from the neighborhoods. Northwestern: it’s time to bring back wet fraternities, if only for the neighbors’ sake.

The problems with the beer garden are obvious. Half or more of the folks you see partying it up this weekend will be underage, and those that aren’t have every reason to pass on $5 beer, a five-drink limit and an exclusive guest list. Especially when they could easily turn off-campus for their imbibing needs.

I predict that undergrads will avoid the new Lakefill attraction in droves – not to say that the beer garden regulations are unreasonable. In fact, they’re downright common sense.

But the drinking needs of college students aren’t reasonable. And that’s not just on Dillo Day.

If the sincere goal of Northwestern’s alcohol policy was to prevent underage or recreational drinking, I can dig up a Gawker link that proves it’s been a pretty big failure. In practice (or, perhaps, by design) the sometimes-enforced dry campus restrictions have just forced the drinkers into the backyards of families during times like New Student Week and Dillo Day.

Contrary to what University President Schapiro might think, most Northwestern students don’t keep their neighbors awake every weekend with wild parties. It’s these high-traffic times of year when the vampires come out and the Evanston residents take notice.

Of course an institution like Northwestern can’t condone underage drinking or give its students carte blanche to break the law. But in the fraternities, they have the perfect buffer – bureaucratic, centrally-located institutions that can consolidate and monitor the drinking, take on all the risk and face the wrath of the school when the results aren’t up to snuff.

Will they follow whatever rules are set-up by the University? Probably, for a while. A decade from now? Doubtful, but at least someone will be accountable for the biggest parties of the year. The fraternities can serve as a manageable place for Northwestern’s drinking in the relative safety of campus – and an easy target for judicial affairs to turn to when it needs to send the occasional message about controlling the party.

I’ll stop by the Lakefill beer garden this Saturday, and I hope I’m wrong to think that I’ll be one of the few – because if I’m right that means more traffic off-campus, and more headaches for the residents and NU’s town-gown peacekeepers. But I expect the vampires to be all over Evanston tomorrow and every year on Dillo Day – at least until we wise up and give them somewhere else to go.

Mike Carson is a Weinberg senior. He can be reached at [email protected]. Illustration by Morgan Krehbiel.

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Carson: Beer tent won’t stop vampire weekend at NU