Calvin should open an on-campus beer and wine garden. Yes, I’m serious.

As cold weather approaches, and as students settle into a false sense of security about the virus, Calvin can expect to see a surge of off-campus parties. Perhaps more so than any other factor, house parties stand to unravel months of careful planning in a single night of drunken, un-socially distanced contagion.

This is the stuff of administrators’ nightmares, as it’s one of the few things that is out of their control. However, some innovative thinking akin to what’s been going on this past summer could be key to minimizing the number of off-campus parties.

My solution: designate an outdoor spot on campus where wine and beer are served. Rope off part of Commons Lawn on the weekends or a section of the Prince Conference Center parking lot as designated drinking areas on campus. Have events staff man the entrance and the exit, check IDs and sell entrants wristbands that allow them one or two drinks. Set up heat lamps, umbrellas and socially distant tables to create a cozy atmosphere for the chilly fall. For students, faculty and staff alike, it would be a perfectly Instagrammable novelty. Who else gets to enjoy a pint right next to their chapel after class?

This idea is out there for a dry campus like Calvin’s, but it’s less ridiculous than one might think. Having two drinks while socially distant and outdoors is far safer than a house party would be with regards to both alcohol consumption and COVID spread. Also, creating opportunities for students who can legally drink reduces the likelihood that they’ll host parties, where underage students will drink and then bring back the virus to campus.

Additionally, Calvin is already not a totally dry campus. The Prince Conference Center allows for third-party vendors to sell alcohol at Calvin-sponsored events and weddings that take place there. Calvin doesn’t make money directly off alcohol, but we already use it as leverage to attract more wedding receptions. If it is okay for me to drink a glass of wine at a talk given by a professor at the Prince Conference Center, then the same moral equivalence holds on the opposite side of the Beltline. Not to mention, alcohol sales on campus would be a source of much needed additional revenue for the university. 

But, as a Christian school, should we shy away from serving alcohol?

No. Our religious heritage has never partaken in teetotaling. Martin Luther, the first of the reformers, was an avid fan of wine. Luther knew of the excesses of alcohol but never thought Christians should throw out the baby with the bath water. He is quoted as saying, “Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused. Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?”

Likewise, our namesake John Calvin himself was known to buy kegs when his theologian buddies were in town, to enjoy responsibly. 

Forgive me for my Calvin-ese, but this also might be an opportunity for the university to teach its students subconsciously on what healthy consumption of alcohol looks like in a culture that would rather binge than enjoy. Our Scripture and our traditions recognize beer and wine as good things that God has given; how do we enjoy them in a well-ordered way? Calvin would be one of few Christian universities, if not the only one, to engage this space.