Underage alcohol consumption is the number-one reason for citations issued during football games at Camp Randall.
The number of underage alcohol citations has been declining over the last several years, from 916 in 2014 to 494 in 2019, according to University of Wisconsin Police Department annual reports. But most of the police involvement at Camp Randall during Badger games is still related to underage alcohol, UWPD Director of Communications Marc Lovicott said.
On campus, too, most of the issued citations and arrests involve underage alcohol consumption, Lovicott said. But UW isn’t the only school with an underage drinking problem.
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“Alcohol is definitely an issue here but I don’t want to discount the fact that it’s an issue on every college campus,” Lovicott said. “We’re not alone in dealing with this. It’s happening all across the country.”
Fifty ejections and 25 citations occurred at Camp Randall during the football game between the Badgers and Michigan Oct. 2, according to the page. Twenty-two out of the 25 citations issued were related to underage alcohol. The numbers remained at the same level at the night game against Army on Oct. 16, including 44 ejections and 24 citations, with 20 for underage drinking.
On homecoming weekend, ejections plummeted to 24. Drinking citations also shrank to 11 at the Iowa game.
Lovicott said the UWPD talks with other institutions in the Big Ten to address issues related to alcohol. UWPD also has partnerships with University Health Services and housing across campus because underage drinking is both a legal problem and a health concern, Lovicott said.
“A lot of the issues are involved in housing and residence halls, so that’s why it’s important to get all those folks plugged in and working on this issue together,” Lovicott said.
While alcohol-related arrests and citations happen constantly, they become more visible at football games, according to Lovicott.
They also occur more frequently during night football games, Lovicott said.
“We know people have a tendency to be drinking throughout the day leading up to the game,” Lovicott said.
UWPD issued 30 underage alcohol citations at the second game this semester, which was held at 6 p.m., according to the UWPD Twitter page. But UWPD only issued 10 underage alcohol citations at the first game this semester, which was held at 11 a.m.
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Many students feel the need to get drunk before the game begins, biology major Nicholas Loew said.
“There’s no alcohol [sold] in the stadium,” Loew said. “So I think that kids want to get really drunk so that they can stay drunk for the whole game.”
Some student groups have argued that police involvement in minor offenses, such as citations, is not necessary. Students raised this concern last month when UWPD said they would cite students jaywalking in a construction zone, prompting criticism on social media platforms.
A few others have criticized the department on social media for tweeting out the citations and the number of police contacts at games.
“It’s quite disgusting and sad that you tweet these out. These are people who made mistakes, they don’t need to be put on display for you to brag about,” one individual commented on Twitter. “I’m thankful that you are there to help, but it’s not cool to have a highlight reel for everyone to laugh at.”
Though arrests and ejections occur often at Camp Randall, the presence of the police there isn’t excessive, Loew said in his opinion. The student section at the stadium is huge, so students often don’t see police interventions when they happen.
The police don’t eject people from the stadium just for drinking, only ejecting those who are particularly out of control, Loew said in his observation. UWPD practices account for this observation, as officers follow behavior-based enforcement during game days by monitoring behaviors, Lovicott said.
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“It’s not like we’re just kind of randomly stopping people and looking to give out citations,” Lovicott said. “We’re watching for individuals whose behavior is directly impacting either themselves or the people around them.”
Dangers surrounding excessive intoxication is one of the reasons the UWPD signed onto Medical Amnesty Through Responsible Actions, Lovicott said.
This amnesty program legally pardons both the student who overdosed on alcohol and whoever called for help, allowing the student to receive medical attention without either party fearing legal repercussions, according to the UWPD website.
In addition to health issues caused by excessive alcohol consumption, Lovicott said there are concerns about students being intoxicated in public spaces. Once individuals become incapacitated in public, the situation can escalate into other issues, such as sexual assault, Lovicott said.
“It’s a really serious thing, and that’s why we take alcohol use on our campus very, very seriously,” Lovicott said.
But the high amount of police intervention during Badger games is not new, according to Eleven Warriors.
UW-Madison had the highest number of ejections and arrests out of the 11 universities that provided data from their Big Ten football games in 2017, according to Eleven Warriors. There were 137 arrests, 121 of which were for underage alcohol consumption, and 167 ejections, according to Eleven Warriors.
Before that, UW-Madison led the Big Ten universities with 384 ejections in 2014, according to Eleven Warriors.
Lovicott said universities across the country have alcohol issues similar to UW, so to reduce the number of arrests and citations at Camp Randall, social change must occur — especially on college campuses.
“I think it comes down to a societal change as well, in recognizing the dangers of overconsumption,” Lovicott said.