University to reevaluate birthday books

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The yellow birthday books that many alcohol vendors in the area use to prevent underage purchasing may be headed for a shredder following a new piece of DePauw Student Government (DSG) legislation.

The administration will take student concerns into account after the legislation moves through the proper channels.

“We used the legislation as the concerns that students are having increased,” said DSG Senator and future Student Body President, Claire Haffield. “Our ask is not to get rid of the birthday books entirely, but rather have the administration reevaluate whether it is the best move for students.”

“Our proposed changes will allow students a clearer option to opt-out of the birthday book and provide more information on what information is being released as ‘directory information,’” added DSG Senator Amy Brown via email. The directory information determines that names and dates of birth are not private, so they can be distributed legally to local vendors.

If the legislation passes through DSG, the administration will reevaluate whether the birthday books should continue to be available to vendors. The primary reason for the proposed reevaluation is increasing student concerns about privacy. DePauw’s Policy on Privacy states: “DePauw University understands the importance of protecting the privacy of personal information, especially in today’s increasingly electronic environment.”                                   

The federal government gives private institutions the ability to distribute certain information if it could potentially inhibit drug or alcohol use. The birthday books were originally implemented in the early 2000s in order to curb underage purchasing and use of alcohol.

“These vendors wanted help with identifying students of age to prevent serving alcohol to minors, which would invalidate their liquor licenses and potentially generate fines and citations,” said Angela Nally, director of public safety, via email. The State Excise Police Department-- the law enforcement division of the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission--help the university distribute the books and train employees.

Due to increasing digitilization, Haffield worries that a name and a birthday can be used to gain further personal information on a student.

“The way that the government has started using birthdays would cause a lot more problems for someone than it would have done 15 years ago,”  Haffield said. “When the administration passed it, it was very likely that people couldn’t get much stuff from just your name and birthday, but now that things are updated, people are using birthdays a lot more often to unlock all their information.”

While the birthday books sometimes cause privacy concerns for students, they make it difficult for students with fake IDs to be able to purchase alcohol. One concern about removing the books for good is that people will be more inclined to use fake IDs. Haffield said this problem can be easily combatted.

“Rather than having the book, they’ll be able to train people at a bar or at a liquor store how to look for a fake ID so that they are better able to recognize, rather than just having every single student’s ID and name match up,” Haffield said.

The fate of the birthday book is currently undetermined as the process of reevaluation is underway.

“I don’t think we are likely to fold it,” said Christopher Wells, vice president for student life. “Our evidence suggests that it is somewhat effective in stopping underage drinking.”

If the administration does not stop distributing the books, DSG has plans to ask that employees of participating vendors go through more training with regards to the birthday books.

“We’re just asking that there is better training about how to better use the birthday books,” Haffield said. This training would consist of how to use the book correctly and how to make sure that appropriate interactions are taking place with everyone involved.

Further evaluation of the books will take place this summer. According to Wells, “There will be an ongoing dialogue.”