The past several weekends seemed to be a hit around campus, especially with a recent blessing of an evening football game on a Saturday. This led to a tailgate where people had the opportunity to sleep in, a rare occurrence for the NC State community. Yet as with most tailgates, I witnessed many fellow students have confrontations with both university police and Raleigh Alcohol Law Enforcement. As everyone in the area stood back and watched, I couldn’t help but wonder about all of the various aspects of underage drinking within our community that are unclear and cause confusion for everyone.
Over the next several weeks, I will write a series of opinion columns titled “Underage,” where I will be investigating and writing about various aspects of college culture that involve underage drinking, specifically tailgating. The columns will intertwine relevant information from interviews with my opinions of aspects that need to change, in order to provide education for the community as well as trigger changes in the behaviors of various stakeholders in the issues.
The misinformation at tailgates is rampant, and I want to take the time in this first column to debunk some very popular tailgating myths so that students under the age of 21 can be more cognizant of the rules and procedures in place across the Fairgrounds lot. Understanding that a number of students under 21 engage in drinking during college tailgates across the country, this education is extremely crucial.
However, before continuing further it would be naive not to state that in North Carolina, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to consume alcohol. This column does not condone underage drinking but rather encourages comprehensive education so students and minors have the ability to make their own educated decisions.
In an effort to learn more precise information, I spoke with Major David Kelly of the NC State University Police Department. In our conversation, we talked through various tailgating myths that I had been told in my college career, and he debunked all of them.
Myth 1: “Officers cannot approach you if you have a koozie on your beer.”
“If an officer identifies someone that appears to be under the age, the officer will approach them, engage them in conversation, and they’ll ask for their [government issued] ID and student ID,” Kelly said. “Based on the questions that are asked and presentation of the ID, once it is determined that the person is underage and has been consuming or is in possession of alcohol, then that starts the process of student conduct referrals and issuance of citations.”
Myth 2: “Officers cannot inspect what is inside your cup if you have alcohol in a fast food cup.”
Kelly added that in addition to approaching a student, law enforcement officers on the tailgating lots have full authority to ask students to remove the koozie. In the same respect, according to Kelly, officers can ask students to open the lid to any cup they might have in order to smell it or inspect it.
Myth 3: “Officers cannot approach you if you’re under a tent for a group’s tailgate.”
“We have the jurisdiction and authority to enter into any of the property that is on the university ground, whether it is a restroom, tailgate area; tent area, that is all part of the property that is controlled by the university, which gives us the authority to enter into those premises and investigate whether or not somebody is underage and in possession or consumption,” Kelly said.
Despite the feeling that sometimes it can seem that law enforcement officers are targeting underage drinkers, on behalf of the university police, Kelly explained that it is for the safety and the safeguarding of patrons.
“It’s a great experience and a lot of people have a lot of fun." Kelly said, "The only thing that we really ask and really stress is that people drink responsibly and that people are aware that it is illegal to be underage and to be in possession or have consumed alcohol.”
It is vital for the safety and responsibility of students to understand the falsehoods of these myths and further comprehend the risks associated with drinking during tailgates. With college and tailgate culture putting heavy emphasis on drinking, students need to be aware of the possible consequences as well as the reality of the scenario.
Next week’s column in the “Underage” series will evaluate the current resources available for information about tailgating policies and will discuss the importance and need for a handbook detailing the exact rules and regulations regarding tailgating at NC State football games.