Misunderstanding of university policy at tailgates leaves students searching for answers
When students tailgate before this Saturday's football game, no matter what their fraternity, sorority or friend may have told them, they will not be legally permitted to drink alcohol.
This may come as a surprise for students, but the university stated that student tailgates with alcohol have never been part of the plan.
"With the alcohol policy, nothing has changed," Carole Johnson, assistant director of news and communications, said. "Alcohol is not permitted in the 'End Zone' for student tailgating."
The End Zone, the student area, is one of three tailgating sections. The others include the Red Zone and the Red and White Club tent. The Red Zone is a general tailgating area where the public can buy passes to set up tents. The Red and White Club is filled with fans, faculty and alumni who have donated.
Johnson said alcohol is only permitted in the Red and White Club tent.
The university took issue with The Miami Student's Sept. 2 article titled, "MU hopes tailgating increases attendance," which reported word of a policy change allowing students to drink alcohol at tailgates.
Despite the university's claim that alcohol was never permitted, a number of attendees reported otherwise after last Saturday's home game against Marshall.
Senior Lance Greenberg won a free tailgating spot in the Red Zone for Miami's opening game. He decided to bring his fraternity. He also decided to bring beer. Something neither he, nor President David Hodge, had an issue with, according to Greenberg.
"We were never specifically told, 'You can't drink,'" Greenberg said. "Everyone else in the Red Zone was drinking. Even President Hodge came by and he seemed like he was open to the idea of us having a beer."
At the time of publishing, Hodge was unavailable for comment.
Greenberg's fraternity got into trouble with the university last year, so he said they were extra careful.
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"We were not going to risk anything if we didn't know for sure that we could drink," he said. "It makes no sense that they're now telling us we can't drink."
Greenberg is not the only one confused by the policy flip-flop.
Junior Jillian White, Kappa Kappa Gamma's social chair, was responsible for coordinating the tailgate for this coming Saturday's game.
She was told in an email from the Interfraternity Council (IFC),"this is the first time Miami will allow tailgating with an open cooler policy."
According to the IFC email, an "open cooler policy allows those who are 21 and older to drink in the area assigned to us in the parking lot."
White received that email Aug. 25.
"We were told that if we were 21 we could drink beer out of red cups," White said.
White was planning a tailgate, one that would involve an "open cooler," for this Saturday's game against Eastern Kentucky. Tuesday's Tri-Council meeting - where the executive officers of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, the Panhellenic Association and IFC, as well as the presidents of each chapter from those organizations were in attendance - changed those plans, catching many people off guard.
"We were completely shocked," Ryan Koerner, VP of programming for IFC, said. "For the longest time, we were told one thing and it never wavered, and then this Tuesday, we found out that everything we had been planning and everything we had been working on had just gotten completely shut down, in the sense of an open cooler policy."
White said the abrupt change has left plenty of people in disarray.
"Everyone is confused," White said. "No one knows what [the policy] is."
Associate Vice President for University Communications and Marketing Deedie Dowdle insisted there is no reason for confusion.
"First and foremost, Miami's policy on alcohol consumption did not 'change,'" she said. "Our policy has always been consistent with Ohio law, which does not allow open alcohol except in an area that has applied for and received a liquor permit. The only area that currently holds a liquor permit in or around the stadium is the Red & White Club tent."
According to Dowdle, the Red Zone, does not have a liquor permit. Yet, the "Tailgating Information" section of the Miami Athletics website implies something entirely different as it addresses all "fans" and makes no mention of specific sections.
It states: "Fans consuming alcohol must present identification to appropriate law enforcement or university personnel when requested to do so."
That information was published Aug. 26.
The Athletic Department and the university, Koerner said, seem to be on different pages.
"I think between the Athletic Department and the university, I believe there was some lack of communication," he said.
Athletic Director David Sayler suggested that alcohol would be allowed at tailgates in an April 14 interview with The Miami Student.
"I think there is an understanding that kind of stuff is what happens on a college Saturday," Sayler said in the April interview. "It's just managing it and monitoring it … We want everyone to have a good time and do it responsibly."
This announcement, Dowdle said, was premature.
"My understanding is that [Sayler] was enthusiastic about creating a student Red Zone, and mentioned several possibilities that were being discussed at that time," she said. "One of those was a proposal to allow alcohol for those of age. Ultimately, it was decided not to change policy."
Where the university stands now is clear - alcohol is not allowed in the student tailgating zone, nor is it permitted in the general public's zone. However, many students have questions and many more are angry about the miscommunication.
Charlotte Hult, president of Chi Omega, is one of those people. In an email to her sorority, she said: "Miami's sorority Presidents unanimously decided that we will be BOYCOTTING the tailgate on Saturday before the game, in order to make a statement to Miami University and Athletics that tailgating - aka allowing students of legal age to consume alcohol in the "Greek Village" zone - should be permitted in student tailgating zones."
The "Greek Village" zone refers to spaces in the End Zone reserved by various Greek organizations.
The Athletic Department would not discuss the alcohol policy and instead referred The Miami Student back to the university communications team. The only information the university provided was that the alcohol policy has never wavered.
Meanwhile, students are upset, some are turning their backs on any form of tailgating, but most of all, as Koerner said, they are confused.
"We're still kind of left in the dark."