Kegger in B-section tonight!

By 1979 a scene like this would not cause alarm to any RA

By 1975 this would have been a typical, and legal, scene in a freshmen residence hall  (Bluestone 1979)

The 1970’s saw many changes in student attitudes, but not much affected Virginia college students more than a piece of legislature in 1974.  The sale and consumption of all percentages of beer was now available to all 18 year old college freshmen.  Before 1974, 18 year olds were only allowed to buy beer that contained 3.2% alcohol.  Although no one under 21 could purchase liqour or wine, 18 year olds legally could drink full strength beer in bars or in the Warren Student Union building on campus.  This change meant almost every alcohol policy in the student handbook had to be changed.

No other place on Madison College’s campus saw the same amount of change as the residence hall policies.  It was not until the 1972-1973 academic year that alcohol was even allowed in the dormitories.  Prior to this change in policy, students could only buy and drink beer in the Warren Student Union.  However in 1973 students under 21 could only have 3.2% beer in their rooms.  In the 1973-1974 handbook referecnced above the alcohol policy grew to include five different subcategories, labeled A-E.  “Individual residence hall rooms and suite lounges are the ONLY area, other than the campus center restaurant where alcoholic beverages may be consumed” (1973-1974 Student Handbook, 26).  This policy is more detailed than previous years, and it would continue to grow larger almost throughout the 1970’s.  By 1979 the alcohol policy in the student handbook was seven pages long.

Getting ready for a party in a residence hall Bluestone 1979

Getting ready for a party in a residence hall
(Bluestone 1979)

For more information about alcohol’s affect on JMU during the 1970’s, visit the site: Alcohol: Testing the Boundaries

The alcohol policies of the kate 1970’s were experimental and became a hodge-podge of different rules, causing lots of talk among the students.  Residents were allowed one quarter keg per room and could have up to ten people in his or her party.  The N-comlex, now called the Village area, residence halls are set up in suites, allowing more residents to congregate in the suite room.  Two quarter kegs were allowed in the suite rooms and these parties could have up to 15 people, but no full kegs of beer were allowed.  Before this policy change in the 1978 student handbook, residents were only allowed one quarter keg per suite, which angered many residents.  1978 a student petition was formed in effort to change the policy to allow two quarter kegs.  The petition was widely supported by the students and played a roll in convincing JMU to allow more alcohol in the residence hall parties.  The students demanded more beer, and they got more beer.

See the photos below for the complete experimental alcohol policy from the 1979 JMU Student Handbook.



Residents were also allowed to have large parties in the recreation room, or “party room” as residents called it, which could hold up to 100 people, although the 1979 student handbook describes 80 as the “recommended size.”  However, these large rec room parties held many responsibilities for the residents.  Four sponsors, or hosts, were required to represent the party and make sure food and nonalcoholic beverages were available.  It was actually policy that students be good hosts or hostesses and make sure there was plenty of food and non booze in stock.  This also offered students who did not want to drink alcohol a chance to go to the party.  The sponsoring residents were also not allowed to have a cover charge unless he or she held a “banquet license.”  The student handbook from this year also tells the student how to obtain a license if he or she desires to charge people at the party.  “Party sponsors should contact Mary Ellen Rohrbaugh in room 107 of alumnae hall to obtain the necessary request forms,” (1979-1980 Student Handbook, 25).  In accordance with the ABC laws parties could not serve alcohol past 12am and student policies required all alcohol, or what remained of it, to be poured out at 1am.  Sponsors were not allowed to serve grain alcohol or liquor at the parties either but the beer was allowed to flow with one half keg on being available on tap at one time.  However not all college students could afford to buy kegs, so many purchased cans to supply the parties.  According to Dr. Mark Warner, who was an RA and Head Resident during these trials of different alcohol policies, the cans created a big mess for the sponsors to clean up.  Student sponsors were also held liable for any damages done to University property within the party.  Sponsors also held the responsibility of making sure the rec room was completely cleaned by 11am the following morning.  The residents held many responsibilities regarding the alcohol, but if they needed assistance they were to seek help from the RA on duty.

All suite parties holding 15 people or rec room parties were required to be registered with the Resident Adviser or the Head Resident.  The RA could help settle issues amongst the party goers and help maintain a guest list for the party.  This sounds strange to picture an RA kicking people out of a party not for drinking, but for not being on the guest list.  And as crazy as this sounds compared to todays alcohol policies, there was some success with the experimental policies with the Office of Residence Hall staff.  “We’ve had fewer problems this year because the students must talk to their resident advisers when they register their parties, and thus are more aware of their responsibilities.” (breeze article, 1979).  This quote comes from someone who anyone familiar with JMU would recognize, former president Dr. Linwood Rose.  Rose got his start in the Office of Residence Halls and by 1979 had become the Director of Residence Halls and Commuting Student Services.




1972-1973 student handbook

1973-1974 student handbook



Works Cited:

1979 Bluestone, 29, Harrisonburg, Virginia:  James Madison University, 1979, Accessed 4/15/13 from

Dr. Mark Warner, Interview by Nicholas Spinner, 16 April 2013, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia.