Partying problem calls for compromise

Ever since one of St. Thomas’ neighbors wrote a letter to TommieMedia, students’ weekend behavior has become a popular topic. In the wake of that complaint, students, staff and more neighbors have added a passionate series of comments and articles to the debate.

Obviously everyone has an opinion on the situation, and each side has made respectable arguments.

Maybe the students wandering Merriam Park at 2 a.m., and the neighbors picking up their trash eight hours later, didn’t get to this point because of disrespect or intolerance. Maybe it was the university and the people who protect it who made things this way.

Partying gets little tolerance at St. Thomas. Public Safety monitors the campus for stumbling students; resident advisers listen in hallways for any sign of drinking; hired police officers break up house parties and undercover cops pick which weekends to write the most citations for minors.

An underage student who drinks is a criminal. Not just legally, but privately as well. Authorities from both city and school hunt down partiers for partaking in a common social activity.

Saying “Well, everyone else parties” in no way excuses what’s been happening, and no one can escape alcohol laws. But perhaps instead of trying to completely combat student drinking, a plan that’s clearly unsuccessful, St. Thomas and Public Safety could focus on promoting safety and respect.

A friend of mine recently spoke to a group of freshman about drinking. He didn’t try to strike fear in them or preach about how partying is wrong and unacceptable. Instead, he shared experiences from his time in college to help encourage responsibility and smart decision-making.

This is the type of dialogue that students will actually listen to, and it can make a difference. If St. Thomas acknowledged that most students aren’t going to stay in and watch movies on the weekend, then maybe it could start changing the attitudes of students who are venturing out.

At other schools around the country, partying isn’t promoted, but it isn’t taboo, either.

Resident advisers at Stanford University don’t immediately write up students for partying in the dorms. They make sure students are being safe and considerate. Public Safety at Marquette University helps party hosts kick out unwanted guests and offers safe rides across campus. Police near the University of Kansas monitor public behavior but allow parties on private property to go on.

If St. Thomas accepted the idea that partying, both on- and off-campus, is inevitable, I think student behavior would become much less of a nuisance for the entire community.

The problem is that right now, when students decide to go out and party, it’s all or nothing. Even if they’re looking for a low-key night, the risks are the same. Sometimes small gatherings get busted and huge keggers slip under the radar. Students never really know.

Undoubtedly, there are times when Public Safety or resident advisers need to step in and take control. Punishment is needed in some situations. Getting so drunk that you have to puke in a yard is unacceptable.

But trying to stop every party is an uphill battle. Each year, a new fleet of freshmen come to St. Thomas, on their own for the first time and ready to let loose. Over the past three years, St. Thomas has cracked down harder and harder on partying. This year has already seen more disturbances than most.

With dozens of parties getting busted every weekend, no one should be surprised that such large packs of students roam the neighborhood late at night. What else are they supposed to do when cops kick them out of their friends’ houses at midnight, if not earlier? And students who live on campus have no choice but to head to the streets if they want to party on the weekends.

Maybe if students didn’t fear RAs knocking on their dorm doors, they wouldn’t have to go tromping through the neighborhood in search of a party. Maybe if students didn’t have to worry about Public Safety ticketing all their guests, there wouldn’t be such animosity between the two.

Perhaps if campus authorities took a different approach to partying, students wouldn’t feel like outcasts. Maybe then they wouldn’t feel like everyone’s out to get them.

Neighbors could become more than just cop callers. Public Safety officers could become more than just citation writers. Students could become more than just party animals.

Everyone might start getting along better.

Grant Goerke can be reached at

11 Replies to “Partying problem calls for compromise”

  1. I couldn’t disagree more. If you are underage and you want to drink, be willing to pay the price if you are caught. There should be no accommodations by either the school of the St. Paul police. If you host a party, be ready for neighbors to get upset if your party is too loud at midnight or people are vomiting on the sidewalks. The students need to understand that they are guests in the neighborhood. No one is saying students can’t have parties. The student need to be smarter. Don’t invite 75 people to your residential home in Ashland. That will cause a scene. If you go to school where alcohol is not permitted on campus, don’t walk around with a case of beer. Students just need to be smarter and be willing to face the consequences if caught.

  2. Just because it’s illegal, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong. Malum Prohibitum.

    There has got to be a reason why so many people disregard the law and choose to drink under the age of 21.

  3. John: Here’s the thing. I chose to drink when i was under 21, and knew full well the consequences. And I never once got caught. I’m not saying it should be excused when caught or anything like that, but I do agree that some of UST’s drinking rules are a bit strict, such as the whole, being escorted off campus by someone of age, rule. I think that judgement should be used instead of rules. I had some roommates who were caught last year for being too loud in an elevator on their way back to the dorm. Public safety was called and by the time they arrived, everyone was in bed (whether or not they were sleeping is probably another story..) I was sleeping and was woken up by a public safety officer standing inside my room yelling at me to get out in the living room to take a breathalyzer test. Everyone else in the room blew over .12 (or whatever the limit they set is) which mean’t that even though they were all safe in the apartment and not in any danger of harming themselves or others, they were REQUIRED to be escorted off campus. For their safety? Screw that. They had to walk to someone else’s house to sleep that night because if something were to happen, UST wouldn’t get sued.

  4. The fact of the matter is that students in college are going to drink. The real problem lies between the ideology of Public Safety and the students. This “zero tolerance” mindset by Public Safety creates a scenario where students will do anything to avoid being caught. For example, if a person has had too much to drink and needs medical help, nobody is going to call Public Safety. Why? Because nobody wants to get a fine or even be escorted off campus. As a result, the person who needs help won’t get any and could potentially become in grave danger. I feel that the term Public Safety is outdated and should be re-named to Alcohol Police, unless there is serious reform on the policies.

  5. John- “The students need to understand that they are guests in the neighborhood.” Really? Just guests in the neighborhood? This issue is about much more than underage drinking- it has become a question of our place, as students, in the surrounding neighborhood. I am having trouble understanding your comment… we pay to live here. We buy our groceries here. We frequent the local businesses here. And you know what, many of us St. Thomas students even volunteer here. Forgive me for saying it, but it is probably likely that St. Thomas students do more service here than the “permanent” residents. Yes, some of us may be temporary residents here in St. Paul, in this neighborhood, but that does not make us guests here.
    Also, I don’t think anyone is arguing that we should not be punished if caught doing something that is indeed illegal. However the issue arises when the neighbors call the police because someone is talking on a cell phone or smoking outside a house, and the police clear everyone out. To be honest, we are probably less harm to you when all “75” of us are crammed into our friend’s basements rather than wandering the streets of St. Paul. The noise comes when the police arrive and clear out the party. I moved off campus for a reason- and now, a mile off campus I am still dealing with the same issues I faced last year. To be honest, I work very hard all week long and if I want to have a party on Saturday night, I am going to have a party on Saturday night. Go ahead, call the police, but I can bet they are starting to get annoyed with pointless complaints of people standing outside a house talking. Don’t get me wrong, if people are throwing up on your lawn- that may be the right time to phone it in, but I have a hard time believing that happens to you every weekend. I’m sure many complaints are simply angry, crabby neighbors looking for something to complain about.
    Previous posts and other articles have made comments about St. Thomas students having a sense of entitlement. True or not, I think it can be argued that many of the “permanent residents” have the same sense of entitlement- just because you live along Summit Avenue or in a prestigious neighborhood doesn’t give you the right to tell St. Thomas students we are entitled, or that we are a nuisance. I would agree with the author of this article, this issue definitely calls for a compromise. The relationship between students and the neighborhoods surrounding St. Thomas is strained, but I don’t feel that the blame can be put entirely on the student’s shoulders.

  6. The University and Public Safety need to be more concerned with our actual SAFETY and less concerned about showing their authority and making students pay even more money to the school simply because a few people choose to have a beer in their dorm room. A party that results in belligerent drunks and serious public nuisance should be dealt with. However, the University needs to give up the idea that they can force students to conform to their uptight ideologies and spend our weekends in the library studying theology. As for the neighbors around campus? If they dislike college students so much… why on earth did they choose to live next to a University? It’s not as if it is a big secret that college students act like young adults on the weekend… Let us have our 4 years of fun and learning and let us be on our way.

  7. Has there always been this much contention between students and neighbors? I am a year round resident of Merriam Park and have been mostly oblivious to this. I hope you do not think that all the neighbors are discontented. I have not had the same experiences with Tommies as others have, in fact, I have encountered quite the opposite. (see comment #19 in “Letter…”) In my opinion UST students are an asset to the neighborhood. The parties, few and far between, have always been non-threatening. Be safe and enjoy your 4 years!

  8. I too would disagree with the Mr. Goerke. Personally, I do not fear nor hold any animosity towards the Public Safety officers/Resident Advisers. Typically, the only people I see that do have such feelings are those who are knowningly in conflict with St. Thomas’ policies. As for your assessment on a solution to the problem, I disagree that a compromise is needed whatsoever. There are rules to follow when attending this institution that you should familiarize yourself with and expect an appropriate response for when you do not. Your notion of a compromise would only encourage those students that do well in following the rules to engage in more risky behavior. While it may not seem ideal from an underage drinkers perspective, it in no way should. The comparison to other schools is relatively weak, while there are more lax schools than St. Thomas there are also more strict ones. I feel the strict policies on drinking keep those not involved with drinking from having to deal with a lot of the things. Whether or not that is because people don’t it so overtly given the strict rules I do not know. I just fail to see the benefit of those who do not drink from having the rules compromised.

  9. As a current student at St. Thomas I feel that not only are the University’s policies strict, but because of the harshness they encourage unsafe behavior, like David pointed out. First, as far as I know there is not a “good samaritan” rule that applies that negates consequences in the event of an emergency which could keep students from avoiding authorities in the event that help is needed. Second, the University lacks in one very important area- education regarding drinking, sure we all got that talk during freshman orientation which involved a little talk about alcohol and some consequences and there are the posters that can be found around campus talking about “binge drinking” but as a whole the topic is largely ignored until it is time to pass judgement and punish students for underage consumption. Lastly, because of the harshness of the rules and the “zero-tolerance” that the school shows it does not encourage responsible drinking, i.e the punishment for causally drinking a beer or two is the same as the punishment for the student who is extremely intoxicated. Therefore the mindset that if you are going to be caught, you may as well get caught for something worth getting caught for is, unfortunately one that I have heard used before. This does not mean that the University should turn a blind eye to the issue, but they are clearly aware, as are the residents in Minnesota ( that underage drinking does occur on campus. The question is how can they react to this issue that is important, because as of right now, it seems very little is being done to prevent it while Public Safety continues to rack up the fines.

  10. I agree, i know that if the rules weren’t so strict that kids won’t go out and binge drink. With the constant fear of getting busted and or even a minor, kids want to take in all they can before things get bad. I mean i agree with what pub safe and the police there just doing their job’s, but to let things slide just a little bit I think kid’s personally will be safer. don’t take this the wrong way but there is always going to be a few kids in a pack that will go nuts and be so intoxicated that they need to be carried home. But if the “big man” were to back off a bit i think that kid’s would not pound their drinks because the cops might come and take it away. Indeed it need’s to be monitored but how i look at it kid’s will stop getting so “hammered” in fear that their night may be cut short due to these strict rules. With the stress from school and what not, the next thing any kid needs is a three to six hundred dollar fine on their shoulders. It would make drinking a social thing again and not just another night of “dude let’s get wasted,” if pub safe and the cops would take it as kid’s being kid’s and let it slide a little bit.

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