During a recent meeting of the Common Council Organizational Committee, Ald. Bryon Eagon, District 8, managed to liven up the normally C-SPAN-esque proceedings by suggesting the recently proposed additional citizen seat on the Alcohol License Review Committee be reserved for a student. On the surface, this must have been somewhat akin to the suggestion that Count Dooku have a vote in the Intergalactic Senate, but deep down, the idea has substantial merit.
Obviously, the inclusion of a true student voice on the committee, not just a “technical advisor,” would go a long way toward smoothing the relationship between the ALRC and denizens of its main area of focus. Ideally, a voting student member would not only convey student interests to the ALRC and explain ALRC policy to the student body, but also would empower the students in an unprecedented way.
All too frequently, decisions regarding alcohol policy have been made without adequate student input or consideration, leading to more frustration, which leads to further disenfranchisement. From the university’s decision to spend nearly five figures of its own money on ID scanners in liquor stores (instead of, you know, school-related paraphernalia), to Capitol Neighborhoods Inc.’s once-stubborn attempts to set citation quotas, raise alcohol taxes and generally screw with downtown’s younger crowd, students are rightfully disillusioned when it comes to their role in shaping policies that dramatically impact their lives. In the end, neither side benefits from such caustic animosity.
A voting student member would also bring a fresh perspective to the committee. He or she would be able to draw on the vast ideas and experiences of his or her peers for ideas on how to improve the alcohol situation in the city — ideas that go beyond “let me in the bars” and “don’t bust my house parties.”
Furthermore, students are not a special interest group like the Tavern League or the university, which also have “technical advisor” status. They are a substantial constituency of the ALRC, and their goals are not a government-sanctioned river of beer flowing from Capitol to campus as certain MTV-inspired fragments of their population may have you believe. Their goals are the same as the rest of the city’s: namely the promotion of responsible and fair alcohol vending and the maintenance of safety and quality of life throughout the city.
Before Mr. Eagon’s proposal can be realized, however, there are several details that must be worked out. First, there was substantial debate regarding whether the representative had to be 21. As with any other city committee, any adult should be allowed to serve. Regardless of how much some may wish to pretend otherwise, most college-aged students are aware of and can offer meaningful input on alcohol issues, whether or not they are 21.
Second, the appointment process needs to be more clearly defined. It should go through ASM. Our student government will hopefully exercise a calming influence on candidates, preventing the selection process from turning into a contest to see who can spit the most fire at the man, as could happen a general election. Furthermore, this would provide a concrete service ASM can point to as it seeks to rebuild itself.
Nevertheless, the process must be conducted in a way that is open and accessible to the student body. The candidates should have to defend their platforms not only before the Shared Governance Committee or the Student Council, but before the general public as well.
Since all other citizen members are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council, the student representative should also be confirmed by both bodies before being seated. Finally, students should be appointed to one-year terms, rather than the usual two, in order to attract capable people who would otherwise be deterred by study abroad plans or graduation.
Overall, Ald. Eagon’s proposal is a critical step to solicit greater input and participation from such a large and disenfranchised constituency.