LSU football is known for its legendary tailgate parties almost as much as it’s known for its performance on the field.
But for LSU students, some sweeping regulations — intended to crack down on binge-drinking — could be coming down next fall to pre-game parties.
Among the proposals: no more glass bottles, no drinking games, no funnels, no beer kegs or alcoholic party punches, no couches, TVs or indoor furniture and no tents more than 10 feet by 10 feet.
These proposals would only affect LSU students who tailgate as part of a student organization ranging from everyone from the LSU biology club to the LSU Law School, and of course — sororities and fraternities.
LSU’s Dean of Students Maria Fuentes-Martin, who started in August, said she wanted to gather input from students about imposing some new rules that would promote campus safety. Ultimately, she’ll make a recommendation to LSU President F. King Alexander and other administrators, who will have the final say.
“All we want to do is make it safer and tamp down on underage drinking,” said Jason Droddy, LSU vice president of external affairs. “We merely ask that student organizations to sign up for space on the parade ground.”
But more than 100 students who attended a town hall meeting on campus Tuesday evening, emboldened by their desire to preserve their tailgate culture, offered Fuentes-Martin and other administrators a resounding no.
“Nothing needs to change,” one student said during public comment. “You’re only beginning to see the opposition to this.”
The students were asked to weigh in on different proposed scenarios that would regulate how alcohol is served at the tailgates, primarily located on LSU’s Parade Ground. One scenario could require student groups to register their tailgates and then use third-party vendors to serve the only alcohol that would be allowed. Another option would have LSU organize a centralized vendor for all student organizations to purchase their alcohol from on game days.
“We understand that tailgating is a very cherished tradition,” said Kathy Jones, an LSU Campus Life official who moderated the student town hall. “But we also understand that there have been increases in alcohol use and transports to the hospital.”
Many students argued that there was just no way to stop their unfettered drinking, and any attempt to regulate it would just encourage more bad behavior.
“We’re just going to drink regardless,” a student said, who was echoed by the next two student speakers.
They threatened to hide their vodka in water bottles. They said they’d chug their whiskey in their dorm rooms. They said waiting in lines for booze would just lead to drunk students fighting.
Other students tried to take more reasoned positions, accusing the university of trying to make money off of a bar contract on game days. They reasoned that it was logistically impossible to regulate, pointing out that there are more than 400 organized LSU clubs and far fewer licensed alcohol vendors that do catering in the area.
Students also took issue with the fact they were being targeted with more regulations for being involved in student clubs.
“It’s because you’re student leaders,” Jones responded.
Technically, LSU has a policy on the books that already requires student organizations to register their tailgates, but it isn’t enforced.
And moderators also reported that many other SEC tailgating schools like Texas A&M have governing policies that offer similar regulations.
Michael Rodriquez, a 21-year-old senior, said he’s in a fraternity and other student organizations.
“How it feels to students is that LSU is much more interested in A: making money, and B: preserving what their perceived image of what campus should be.”
Fuentes-Martin stressed in an interview that non-students were unaffected. She also said students who weren’t part of a student group’s tailgate wouldn’t be impacted.
“If you’re just a group of people with your family and some of your roommates getting together, no they wouldn’t have to register,” she said. “But if you’re the biology club, you would.”
Chris Dedo, chapter president of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, said frats get a bad rap for binge-drinking. But he said tailgating is more about a culture of camaraderie.
“I know fraternities have a common stereotype of wanting to get drunk all of the time,” he said. “But it’s a camaraderie of us being together, and that doesn’t just end when you’re a student. We have a lot of alumni that come together after they graduate.”