The Mullins Center needs to serve alcohol

By Yaroslav Mikhaylov

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian
Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

There is certainly logic to banning alcohol from the University’s largest athletic center and music venue. Excessive drinking encourages risky behaviors and is generally hazardous to one’s health. If students can buy drinks at a Mullins Center event, they are likely to be drunker than if they can’t. Heavily intoxicated students tend to be disruptive to events, making the venue less attractive for people who are not fans of collegiate-scale drinking. And since most of the University’s community and therefore the potential audience for Mullins Center events is under the age of 21, sales of alcohol in the Mullins Center could make it easier for underage students to secure alcohol.

However, the lack of alcohol at the Mullins Center actually works in the opposite direction: it encourages students to engage in more risky and disruptive behaviors, because alcohol can’t be bought at events. People who wish to experience hockey games or musical performances under the influence of alcohol will simply drink before they arrive at the event or will attempt to smuggle in refreshments. It also makes it easier, not harder, for underage students to get drunk.

The fact is, certain events just tend to pair well with alcohol. It’s no secret that hosting concerts in bars and pubs is a time-honored tradition, and hockey games and beer have a stronger bond than peanut butter and jelly. Barring people attending such events from purchasing alcohol will simply force them to get more creative.

One option – which at this point in the year even the greenest freshman knows about – is “pre-gaming.” Pre-gaming involves rapid and heavy drinking before attending an event. Because it is done fairly quickly, the mind-altering effects of alcohol are going strong about the time the pre-gamers arrive at the event. And yes, it is just about as dangerous as it sounds; since one doesn’t feel the effects of alcohol until after one stops drinking, it is hard to gauge how drunk one will be at the event. This makes obtaining a stomach pumping drunk dangerously easier than it sounds.

Point in case: Friday’s DAYGLOW paint party.

As I stood in line to get into the Mullins center, I saw at least a half-dozen students being pulled out of the line by police because they were simply too drunk to stand up without help. Doubtlessly, many more of the partygoers were just as intoxicated but succeeded in maintaining a semblance of balance.

As the campus policy requires people to pre-game if they wish to imbibe, it makes it easier for underage students to obtain alcohol. Where do those under 21 obtain alcohol? From people over 21, of course! And because the Mullins Center does not sell alcohol; those over 21 will pre-game just as hard as their underage counterparts. However, if of-age students could just buy drinks at the event, they would drink less, or even not at all before the event. If the 21-year-olds are drinking more at events and bars, they are going to the liquor store less often and thus have fewer opportunities to provide alcohol to minors. Because these older students are necessary for the underage students to get the alcohol to pre-game with, they set the tone for the before-event drinking. It’s hard to feel comfortable taking shot after shot while the person who supplied that alcohol is calmly sipping a beer.

The people with the alcohol set the tone for the drinking, and if the Mullins Center is the entity controlling the flow of alcohol, it can exert some control over how intoxicated its patrons are. The Graduate Lounge at the Campus Center serves only beer and wine, and I can say that I have personally never seen anyone belligerently drunk or smuggling in nips or ‘water’ bottles filled with variously colored fluids there. On the other hand, anyone who wishes to witness the aforementioned need only stop by a UMass home hockey game.

The Mullins Center policy against selling alcohol on premises not only fails to reduce the amount of drinking that goes on within it, but it also encourages more risky and dangerous behaviors. So, Mullins, how about installing a bar there over the summer?

Yaroslav Mikhaylov is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]