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Op-ed | Why Tufts deserves an on-campus pub, and why I’m trying to make it happen

Published: Thursday, January 23, 2014

Updated: Friday, February 21, 2014 17:02

If you are over 21, I am asking you to order a drink or two from Hotung this Friday night. Here’s why:

It’s been a busy and productive first half of a year on the TCU Senate — in particular, the Services Committee headed by senators Christie Maciejewski, a senior, and Janna Karatas, a sophomore. We’ve churned out projects that will take effect quickly — like adding the Commons to the meal plan this semester — and projects that will come to fruition later — like hot-air hand dryers in dorms as they are renovated on rotation. We’ve managed recurring projects, like the Turkey Shuttle, the Cause Dinners and the recent late-night study at Carm during finals. 

I was recruited for Services when I walked onto Senate as a senior. Why did I want to try my hand in Senate-ing as a senior? I guess I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I was abroad in London all of last year, which meant I missed one of the most (apparently) contentious sessions in recent memory of the body. I spent my first semester poking around and learning the ropes, and now I am ready to take on my own project.

The idea for a bar came to me when I was asked to bring a handful of ideas to my first committee meeting. My reasoning was that, instead of thinking about what was wrong with Tufts (because I felt enough people were working on that), I would identify what I liked about my experience at University College London and see if aspects of that could be recreated here at Tufts. UCL’s Student Union owned and operated two bars and a pub for its students; UCL students also had full access to the bar, pub and club run by the student union at the university across the street. Students crowded the bars every night of the week, attracted by the hip, student-run atmosphere and the heaps of deals on drinks. In a city with over 7,000 bars and pubs — and one of the greatest club scenes in the world — you couldn’t get a seat in the UCL bars on the weekends. I knew what I wanted to bring to Tufts.

However, the truth is that my school in London was much larger, and everyone could legally get into the bar. Tufts used to have a bar housed in Dewick, but it closed when the drinking age was increased to 21. The logic in closing the Dewick bar was that, with only approximately a quarter of students of legal age, it could not be sufficiently supported.

I think the time has come to think about a bar again. Tufts has increased its undergraduate and graduate programs significantly since 1984 and could feasibly support an on-campus bar. Middlebury, another much smaller NESCAC college, has two student-run establishments that serve alcohol. At Tufts, the only place on campus that does serve alcohol (we have one?) is Hotung Café in the Mayer Campus Center, which is open for alcohol from 5 p.m. until close on weekdays. There is a mini-fridge with a choice of bottled beers and wine coolers, limited to two drinks per Tufts ID. It’s no wonder no one knows about it!

Tufts can do better. I want to realize some manifestation of an on-campus watering hole for Tufts for several reasons. First: to improve the campus experience for seniors. For the majority of my class, who live off campus in a radius around Tufts, there is very little to draw us back to campus for any semblance of a cohesive student experience. Frat parties are tiresome, meal plans have been dropped and dorms are a distant memory. There are loads of student programming dollars aimed at on-campus students, but little offered to upperclassmen, except limited tickets for sporadic Senior Pub Nights. Half of the student body goes abroad during their junior year, only to come back feeling like they should have stayed abroad — like they’ve lost track of people and the Tufts experience they remembered. I want to create an institution that attracts seniors back to campus and makes sure the Tufts experience is inclusive for all years.

However, my project is not just for seniors. One of the most persistent problems on college campuses across the country is the inadequacy of institutional responses to the dangerous culture of over-drinking. At Tufts this has been manifested in the cancellation of literally almost every full-campus tradition in my four years here: Naked Quad Run, Fall Ball, Winter Bash and, almost after last semester’s debacle, TDC. By creating fewer ‘big’ events, the university has increased the pressure on students to make those events ‘special,’ which leads to more TEMS incidents. I think it is time to try something new.

A student bar that can serve as an on-campus example of responsible drinking could set the tone for the rest of the university. Imagine a chill atmosphere, craft brews on draft and students behind the bar watching their peers for safety. Imagine running into your graduate student TAs and sharing a laugh about a professor. Imagine performance events in an intimate venue, maybe turning it up once a week for a party where you don’t need to wear your basement shoes and don’t have to worry about noise complaints. Imagine looking forward to turning 21, for a chance to be part of a fun, responsible campus institution with maybe a little bit of school spirit.

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