Pepperdine benefits when students excel. National scholarships and published research give the university free advertising and bolster its reputation for academic excellence. Administrators already substantially reward students for their academic achievement through scholarships, and money is a superb incentive — but so is alcohol.
Pepperdine should maintain a pub on campus where intellectually curious students can drink with their professors. This would accomplish three things: It would incentivize academic achievement, foster a community of scholars and encourage responsible drinking.
The campus pub would be strictly regulated. Students in international programs enjoy other countries’ lower drinking ages, but no one under 21 could enter the pub. And outside the pub, the campus would still be bone dry. Alcohol consumption elsewhere on campus would be punished as it is now, if not more strictly, and no one on probation could enter the pub.
Initially, students with high GPAs would have pub access. I don’t have a GPA that would get me into the pub. But if the pub existed, I would. That’s precisely why the pub should exist, and why the requirements for access would eventually have to climb. No longer would GPA alone be enough, but students would have to present at conferences or publish research to get through the door. The curious but lazy would have a reason to apply themselves. More and more students would pursue their academic interests, and Pepperdine would reinforce its image as a place of fearless investigation.
The pub itself would be an intellectual hotspot. Not only would the best and brightest students gather in a single location, but all professors would also have complete access. This would create a unique intellectual environment akin to the coffeehouses of Enlightenment Europe. Adam Smith wrote most of “The Wealth of Nations” in his favorite coffeehouse in London, circulating chapters for his fellow coffee drinkers to read and critique. In the same way, the campus pub could serve as communal office hours. Professors of different disciplines would be able to discuss their research with each other, and students would be included in the conversation. Insights of one discipline would cross-pollinate with those of another, and scholarship would bloom.
Further, a place where responsible students could drink on campus would help rehabilitate students’ views on alcohol. Students usually return from international programs with an insatiable thirst for alcohol rather than their host countries’ cultural temperance. A pub on campus would remind students that alcohol is not just a way to enjoy a weekend, but in fact a way to start intelligent conversations.
Many secular universities have campus pubs, but Pepperdine could host one without betraying its Christian mission. A dry campus policy makes sense. The costs of cleaning up after drinking parties, not to mention the costs to the reputation of the university, are too great. But hosting a unique forum for professors and students to share drinks and ideas is very different from setting up a keg at an SGA Town Hall. And despite some American Christians’ injunction against alcohol, the first American Christians were passionate, responsible drinkers. After all, one of the first structures the pious, highly literate Puritans built in Massachusetts was a brewery.
If this pub is done right, many students will not want to go. The pub could enforce a strict drink limit, and would look more like a book club than a bar in West Hollywood. Indeed, those who prefer chatting with professors over wine to barhopping with friends are few and far between. But they do exist, and the pub could satisfy this preference.
When class ends, philosophy students could continue discussing Kierkegaard in an environment more conducive to conversation than the Caf or HAWC. Religion students could dialogue about high Christology in the Pauline epistles. Physics students could interpret the newest findings from the Large Hadron Collider. Communication theory students could challenge postmodern literature majors’ views on the limitations of text to convey meaning.
The ultimate purpose of this campus pub would be to enrich the intellectual character of the university by providing a welcoming environment to its hardworking students. If done right, the pub would inspire academic achievement, promote the exchange of ideas and model responsible drinking habits. Cheers!