This year, alcohol may add fuel to the fanfare at the University of Idaho’s football games.
In a meeting Thursday, the Idaho Board of Education changed a decade of policy and voted to allow drinks to be served in sponsored tents open to the public at home football games for both UI and Boise State University.
Thursday was also the first BOE meeting for the University of Idaho’s new president, Timothy White. “I’m eager to get there,” White said before meeting with the board members. He said he’s hoping to explain how the university has a role in the economic development and social progress of the state, but to emphasize that “the board has a piece of that responsibility.”
Two weeks into the job, White has been on the road as much on campus in Moscow. “Everything is new,” he said, explaining that he’s spent this week learning the goals and styles of Idaho’s different colleges and universities, as well as building relationships with the state’s other education leaders.
The idea of making changes to the statewide alcohol policy came last year, before White was hired for the president’s job. Boise State asked for a special permit to serve alcohol at the Humanitarian Bowl. The request and ensuing discussion prompted the board to encourage the schools to consider creating their own policies on whether and when to serve alcohol on campus.
This was a big change, since for more than a decade, the board has prohibited any sale or consumption of alcohol on state campuses except in instances where the college or university has made a specific request to the board.
The one exception at the UI is the tailgate area at the outdoor football field, which has long been designated a private area where sponsors, such as local businesses, can serve alcohol prior to the game.
On Thursday only Rod Lewis, the board president, voted against the measure to give the schools more alcohol autonomy. “The board did not authorize the use of alcohol in student athletic events in the original policy because we wanted to have a discussion with the institution in each instance,” he said of past regulations.
The board will review its new alcohol policy at the end of the 2004 football season.
Another big UI issue at the meeting – reviewing the costs for maintaining and operating the Idaho Water Center project in Boise – was tabled Thursday afternoon.
The Water Center, also known as University Place, was an ambitious, but financially unstable project to build the UI a multibuilding campus in Boise. The $136 million project ran aground when funds ran dry and news got out that the UI fund-raising foundation had borrowed money out of the school’s general fund to cover up-front expenses. The project is still under investigation for criminal wrongdoing and has been scaled back to one building.
At its meeting in June, the board asked the university to provide information about any money that had been used from the UI campus coffers to pay for the scaled-back project as well as anticipated reallocations.
Jay Kenton, the newly hired vice president of finance and administration, told the board his office was still working on the question and could be ready with a detailed accounting by October.