CC’s Baca campus, a unique and venerated aspect of the CC experience, has a zero-tolerance drinking policy, the effectiveness and propriety of which has been questioned. Stories of drinking-related incidents at Baca have caused speculation about the rule.
Tales of a Geology class being reprimanded for irresponsible drinking practices have sparked some discussion among students and professors. These accounts are largely unconfirmed by the administration, primarily because of a strongly enforced confidentiality rule that applies to issues such as this.
An anonymous member of the Block 6 class GY250 Hydrology, who asked to not be named for fear of disciplinary consequences, confirmed rumors that an alcohol-fueled mistake had been made.
“The deans got a call from the cleaning lady at Baca saying there were beer cans all over the campus, and puke stains on the floors and on bedding,” anonymous said. “We thought we did a thorough job cleaning up, though some students did not take responsibility for cleaning up after themselves when they got sick. I think everyone but the freshmen were banned from Baca for the remainder of the year.”
The campus, settled at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, is about 175 miles southeast of CC’s main campus, and provides a secluded, serene environment for professors who elect to spend class time in a place separate from Colorado Springs.
Its isolation makes it ideal for religion and philosophy classes, while its wilderness surroundings make it attractive for science classes. Some professors choose to make a trip to Baca simply to allow students to disconnect from the cacophony of their daily lives on CC’s campus.
Sometimes, like in the case of John Gould’s current “Building the EU class,” trips to Baca are planned in order to give a visiting professor an authentic experience in the American West.
Dick Hilt, a physics professor, is very enthusiastic about Baca and the ways it can help classes to organically coalesce.
“I love going down to Baca, simply because it pulls the classes and me together in a way that doesn’t happen on campus. I mean, on campus, we meet, we scatter everywhere, and don’t see each other until the next class. And down there, we’re all tucked in together all the time,” Hilt said.
Unfortunately, the campus’ removed nature also makes it a dangerous and inconsiderate place for students to engage in alcohol consumption. Its location is fairly distant from emergency services, and because the school does not fully own it, any sort of destruction to the facilities can be very detrimental.
Re Evitt, an Associate Dean of the College, stressed that consideration for the rest of the Crestone community is paramount. “We have had several conferences there, we are stewards for the facility, and excessive drinking can be a serious disruption to the community,” Evitt said.
“We also have to consider the cleaning services at Baca,” Evitt said. “When the cleaning and maintenance staff needs extra equipment or needs to hire additional people because of something CC students did, we are responsible.”
It is for these reasons that the Baca campus, unlike CC, is a dry campus. Every student who visits must sign a waiver that states, “I understand that Baca Campus is a dry (no alcohol) campus.”
Hilt finds that the drinking protocol at Baca is as effective as it can be, but that it has limits.
“The current ban, the outright ban, is probably as good as anything…whatever the edge is, students will try to climb over the fence and try to find out what is beyond, Hilt said. “I can’t see any reasonable way to screen people so that you can be reasonably assured that Baca will be left as nice as it was found.”
The Baca campus was inspired by an English professor named Joe Gordon who took his “Literature of Wilderness” class on a field trip to the Aspen Institute’s nature facilities in Crestone in the winter of 1987.
The campus, being so far removed from the distractions of modernized city life, is intended to provide an opportunity for students and professors alike to immerse themselves more deeply in the material they are studying.
Hilt finds that some CC students have earned the right to drink responsibly, whereas a small minority has not.
“In my experience, I’ve never been around irresponsible drinkers… that I was aware of, anyway. And so I think, since a few students are irresponsible, those folks could be banned from going or something. There are a few drinkers who just can’t handle their alcohol and they ruin it for everybody, damn it,” Hilt said.