BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Tailgating at LSU is a rich and long standing tradition that has developed a wild reputation. Now, LSU officials are hoping to tame students with new proposed rules for tailgates sponsored by student organizations.
The proposed changes, which were revealed Tuesday, do not apply to non-students or individual tailgates. They also were not well received by students who attended the first of two town hall meetings discussing the possible changes.
"There is strong feeling, and I think a right feeling, that a lot of these decisions have been made without consulting obviously the bigger student organizations," said fraternity member Michael Rodriguez.
According to the Dean of Students Mari Fuentes-Martin, the policy changes came about due to rising concerns over students, specifically binge drinking. She said any given football weekend around 50 students are taken to the hospital, usually because of drinking.
"That to me is 50 too many. It's just kind of scary. If something were to happen, families and people in the community would look at us and say, 'What did you do to promote a safe environment?'" said Fuentes-Martin, who joined the LSU Administration last summer.
To promote a safer environment for students, a tailgating committee was formed to come up with some new ground rules for how student groups tailgate. The committee is made up of five students and representatives from athletics, facilities, Greek life, and campus life and campus police.
According to the committee, student organizations are specifically targeted because they are the leaders on campus and are expected to set a standard for others.
The changes would require student groups to register their tailgate. Spots on the parade grounds would then be assigned on a first come, first serve basis. Other rules would possibly include limiting tent size, prohibiting glass bottles and household items like couches, and not allowing tailgaters to stay overnight at the parade grounds. The rules also ban any communal alcohol like kegs or "hunch punch" and prohibit any drinking games.
However, the biggest point of discussion among the students at the town hall were the three options on the table for how alcohol can be served.
The first option, would require student groups to hire a third-party vendor to serve alcohol. The second option would see the university hiring a third-party vendor to set up a communal bar for all the student group tailgates. In that case, wrist bans would be handed out to students 21 and up. The third option is simply to allow students who are 21 and up to BYOB.
Any violations of the policies would be handled by the Dean of Students' Office and could result in a group losing its tailgating privileges for the year.
Fuentes-Martins admitted that enforcing the new policies would be a challenge. She said they would rely on the honor system along with a team of law enforcement and others to monitor groups on game day. She said the goal is not to catch a student breaking the rules, but to create a safer experience for everyone.
Students at the town hall took issue with all three options. Rodriguez pointed out that smaller organizations may not be able to afford a vendor. Several others said that any regulation would lead to more binge drinking before tailgating.
"We went through a lot today that just wasn't feasible in a physical reality," Rodriguez said.
Fortunately, the proposed policies are not set in stone. The committee took down the concerns and comments and will make adjustments before a final policy is presented to the administration for approval.
"I know change is hard for students, especially when it looks like we're taking something big and so fun away from them. But, I'm hoping we can find a compromise and I'm willing to try. Everything is flexible," Fuentes-Martin said.
A second town hall meeting for students is planned for Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. in the Student Union.