This cartoon depicts the frustrations of increased beer prices at the student center. Students quickly implemented a creative solution to reduce the cost of beer on tap (“The Beer Drinkers’").

“if Polly wanders out into the hallway, the beer is in immediate danger of confiscation by a rampaging Resident” (Rishelle).

Attempts to Increase Beer Prices at Warren

The increased consumption of alcohol on campus by a larger demographic of students triggered ongoing conflicts that evolved between students, administration, and state laws.  As early as 1971, a regular contributor to the student paper called attention to underage community members drinking beer at the student snack bar (“Let’s Be Frank, 3).  By the 1974 fall semester, the Commission on Student Services reported to the College Council that mounting problems with theft and vandalism accrued costs of about ninety-eight dollars per day for the first eight weeks (“Commission on Student Services,” November 26, 1974).  Later, the SGA reported their intentions to invest three hundred dollars to create “short pilot films” targeting vandalism on campus (“Student Services Report,” February 27, 1975).   An editorial, written by a security cadet, reported witnessing the complete destruction of the men’s room on a particular Thursday night and the ongoing “theft of beer glasses and pitchers” (Richards, 4).   Even Carrier noted his surprise at the amount of beer that students consumed on campus when he counted forty-plus kegs behind a dorm one Sunday morning.  (Carrier, March 14, 2012).  Furthermore, a survey taken by the Madison College Counseling Center noted that students prefer alcohol and “are concentrating on social development rather than academic pursuits and are less worried about achieving scholastic status” (Semple, 10).  Though the extent of ongoing damage and the distinction between students versus outside perpetrators remains unclear, the rising concerns by leadership suggest that irresponsible drinking habits had negative effects on the campus.

So, administrators cleverly worked to prevent acts of vandalism. In an effort to reduce the amount of beer that students consumed on a given night, the student union, under what looked to be the instructions of administrators, increased the price of beer. Dr. William Hall, vice president for student affairs, commented that alcohol should not “dominate the programming in the campus center,” especially activities occurring on Thursdays  (O’Leary, “IFC Action,” 5).  This move ignited a back-and-forth between administration and the student body.  Two weeks later The Breeze reported that the student union director changed the brand of beer sold in the student union to “Old Mil” due to the demands of a student petition.  Why “Old Mil?”  By swapping the former brand with the less expensive Old Mil, prices dropped (O’Leary, “Old Mil,” 1).  Beer once again became affordable.  Students proved they would not be deterred so easily.

Hotel versus Private Residence

A disgruntled student ridiculed the "public hall" rule. (Rishelle, 2).

While administrators questioned the best modes to control drinking, students seemed determined to pursue expanded alcohol policies in dorms.  An editorial from a female student lamented prohibition of alcohol in dorm hallways and the desire to drink in all areas of residence halls (See article at right, Rishelle, October 15, 1974).  Divergence arose between state laws and their interpretations.  The ABC laws forbid drinking in “unlicensed public places” (Student Government Association…1973-1974, 20).  Authorities designated residence halls as “hotels,” thereby reflecting public places. Thus, open containers were not permitted beyond the privacy of dorm rooms.  Though the source and purpose of the “hotel classification” remains a mystery, it obviously spurred debate.  Ongoing conversations in The Breeze reflect that student leadership negotiated with administrators, explored state laws and worked to redefine residence halls in order to allow alcoholic beverages beyond private rooms in compliance with ABC laws.

The turning point arrived in April 1977.  Almost two years earlier, SGA president John Lounsbury correctly predicted kegs in dorms “with some provisions” (Sullivan and Rathbun, 6).  An April interview with Frank McNally, ABC board director of information, revealed to the student body that the college was not bound by the “hotel” restriction and could choose to define dorms as “private area[s] such as a home.”  The Breeze article also cited President Carrier’s openness to “allow kegs, provided that the individual rights of students [not imbibing] were not violated” (Burch, “‘College can alter,’” 1,20).  Though administrators did not permit kegs in extended areas of the residence halls immediately, the channels for possibilities opened wider.  Students’ goals became reality in the final weeks of the 1978 spring semester when campus dorms would implement an alcohol policy, dubbed “experimental.”


Images Cited:

Cover and top image:  “The Beer Drinkers’ Dilemma Cartoon,” The Breeze, October 17, 1975, 2. Frame created by Charity Derrow, in PowerPoint, April 4, 2012.

Rishelle, Lisa, “How Old Am I?” The Breeze, October 15, 1974. Framed in PowerPoint by Charity Derrow, April 26, 2012.

Works Cited:

Burch, Barbara, “’College can alter its alcohol policy,’” The Breeze, April 22, 1977.

Carrier, Ronald, Dr. “Class Lecture,” History 337 Local History Workshop, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA, March 14, 2012.

“Commission on Student Services”, University Council Minutes, Control # PR2005-1115 1972-2003 University Council Minutes. Box 1, Series 1, Folder 1. Special Collections.  Carrier Library. James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA, November 26, 1974.

“Let’s Be Frank,” Genesis II, February 12, 1971.

O’Leary, Tim “IFC Action:  Petition Calls for Lower Beer Costs,” The Breeze, October 14, 1975.

O’Leary, Tim, “Old Mil To Be Served:  Beer Prices To Decrease,” The Breeze, October 31, 1975.

Richards, R. Lee (Patches), “’No Better Than Animals’?” The Breeze, November 21, 1975.

Rishelle, Lisa, “How Old Am I?” The Breeze, October 15, 1974.

“Student Services Report”, University Council Minutes, Control # PR2005-1115 1972-2003 University Council Minutes, Box 1, Series 1, Folder 1, Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA, February 27, 1975.

Sullivan, Joann, and Frank Rathbun, “SGA Committee:  Keg Beer Seen in Future,” The Breeze, November 21, 1975.