Posted by the Editorial Board
Nearly two years after the College dissolved the Pavilion Corporation, the legal entity responsible for managing Falstaff's, the facility has remained largely unchanged. As the anniversary of Pavilion's dissolution approaches, it is time to reconsider the role of Falstaff's within the Skidmore community, and to again call for a return to its original purpose as an on-campus bar.
Falstaff's was, of course, originally conceived of as a campus pub. Because the Student Government Association did not have the legal status necessary to fund or build such a facility, Pavilion Corp. was established as a certified New York State not-for-profit with a Board of Directors made up of students, staff and faculty, which would oversee Falstaff's.
During the facility's design and construction, however, the national drinking age was raised to 21, previously 19 in New York State. As a result, the College chose to finish the building, but not to maintain it as a bar. Without a liquor license for Falstaff's, student involvement in Pavilion Corp. declined, and Falstaff's was left in the odd state of limbo in which it has existed until today.
Now, this semester has seen lively debate over the College's new and unpopular Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) policy. The College has gone to great lengths to restrict consumption on campus, under the auspices of protecting student safety and enforcing national laws regarding underage drinking.
The policy makes certain concessions that allow of-age students to host registered parties in on-campus apartments, but regulations require that these remain intimate gatherings. With a rare few exceptions - some events, like Junior Ring, feature a beer garden - there are no activities on campus that allow of-age students to openly consume alcohol in a room with more than 30 people.
But the lack of such a space, a controlled environment where of-age students can socialize and drink on campus, obstructs the opportunity for a healthy and safe social scene at Skidmore. Perhaps more effectively than any clause in the AOD policy, a campus bar would alleviate the risks of over-consumption and irresponsibility both on and off campus, while cultivating a new kind of unifying social sphere.
There are, of course, numerous bars in downtown Saratoga Springs, and many students frequent them. But these are public venues where, on the one hand, many other students feel less comfortable, and on the other, animosity persists between irresponsible students and the businesses and residents of Saratoga. An on-campus bar would be a much safer and more welcoming place for students.
Such a facility is far from uncommon among the College's peer and aspirant schools. Vassar College and Connecticut College not only have bars on campus, they house them within the schools' respective student centers. Skidmore students studying abroad in, say, London or Oxford, witness how campus bars both channel students' social energies in a more controlled setting and improve the social scene of the campus at large.
The most immediate concern regarding such a move would be how to make sure the bar would be safe and secure. Commonly, a college bar sets a limit to how many drinks one student may order to prevent any event from descending into a mess; Skidmore's Campus Safety would of course be a central part of any working arrangement. How much simpler would it be for our officers to monitor students right before their eyes, rather than hover around dorms and apartments where drinking takes place exclusively "underground"?
At the moment Saratoga Springs is dealing with an influx of fake IDs, but the College is uniquely equipped to avoid such issues were it to have its own bar. Skidmore already issues Student Event cards for use at the few events a year where alcohol is served; this offers a college-verified means for preventing underage drinking. It is also worth noting that, unlike driver's licenses, there exists no cottage industry devoted to forging Skidmore student IDs.
In speaking with The Skidmore News, Dean of Students Rochelle Calhoun accepted these points and others, and noted that the administration's subcommittee on Campus Climate and Student Culture are discussing an exploration of founding a bar on campus. "I am open to that exploration, for that kind of safe space. That committee will be putting such an idea forward as an exploration," she said.
This vision of a campus bar, therefore, is not outside the realm of possibility. For the sake of a safe and centralized social experience for the Skidmore community, it is time to consider the value of bringing Falstaff's back to its roots and pushing for an on-campus pub.