Serving alcohol regularly at Harford Community College a big step [Commentary]

Alcohol consumption has a long and storied association with college life, much of it not good. The degree to which that association is promoted at Harford Community College is a matter of substantial public concern.

Though the discussions are very preliminary, there's talk of asking the local delegation to the Maryland General Assembly to establish a special class of liquor license that would be appropriate for the new APGFCU Arena on campus at HCC. The arena is the largest public venue in Harford County, with seating for in excess of 3,000 people, depending on the type of event.

In the short time since it opened in December, the arena already has seen crowds not only for Fighting Owls basketball games, but also for general interest performances, notably featuring the Harlem Globetrotters. There's more to come as two bands whose last hits were on the charts before the current crop of junior college-age kids was born are slated to appear this summer, Kool and the Gang and KC and the Sunshine Band.

The college board of trustees moved last week to seek one-day special event liquor licenses for the two concert dates. But not before one college trustee, John Haggerty, raised potential pitfalls and, in casting the lone dissenting vote, said: "We don't know how those concerts are going to go, let alone adding the dimension of alcohol to it."

In the short term, there's likely no harm in one-day licenses being secured by the college for the Kool and KC shows. Most of the target audience is old enough to have college-age kids.

Haggerty's point, however, is one that should be heeded. It was made clear last week that the college administration has looked very seriously at the issues of regularly serving alcohol on campus, with special attention being given to liability. The college and its new arena, it should be remembered, were built for educational purposes. The entertainment potential of the arena to the community is an important, but still secondary, bonus.

Before the college and the new arena become too dependent on alcohol-assisted events to fill seats, the degree to which filling seats is a priority should be firmly established. More importantly, if serving alcohol at general interest events on campus incites unsavory behavior, the college needs to be in a position where it can say no to serving beer and wine.

"Animal House" may have been an uproariously funny movie, especially to the generation that was the first to hear Kool and the Gang's "Celebrate Good Times," and KC and the Sunshine Band's "Shake Your Booty," but in real life it would be a terrible thing if anything approaching a Delta House mentality were allowed to take root at Harford Community College.

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