It became crystal clear that reality differs from the documentation which the Archdiocese had shown us. The future use of the building, which was being reconstructed on the ISM University campus, was listed as an ‘Administrative building’ on their construction permits and architectural drawings. Yet the Church’s actual plans for this structure were that it become a beer pub.
On July 13, 2012 the president of the Old Town citizens association, requested an urgent meeting with ISM University administrators, on behalf of the Old Town community. Yet the earliest date which ISM was willing to schedule was three weeks away.
August 2nd we met with Dr. Vilius Kontrimas, the director of ISM development and infrastructure to learn their position and opinion regarding the Archdiocese plans to sell alcohol in the newly reconstructed building, which is located on the ISM University campus. The Old Town community was represented by Mrs. Rasa Baškienė, Vilnius municipal councilor, Asta Baškauskaitė president of the Old Town Citizens Association and several neighborhood residents.
We arrived concerned and dismayed by the Church’s plans to promote and encourage the sale of alcohol on the ISM University campus. We were hopeful that the ISM administration would share our concern and would seek to prevent the use of alcohol on the ISM campus. The situation which the Archdiocese was planning would be detrimental to the wellbeing of ISM University students. Unfortunately, during our meeting with Mr. Kontrimas we learned that ISM had opted to take a neutral position and would not interfere with the Church’s plans to open a beer pub on their campus.
Not only were we shocked by ISM’s neutral stance on such a key issue – but we were also surprised that Mr. Kontrimas had chosen to meet with us in a dark corridor instead of in a proper conference room – when meeting rooms are plentiful in the ISM building. This choice of meeting venue further showed us that this topic was obviously irrelevant to the ISM University administration.
Dr. Kontrimas confirmed that the Archdiocese was indeed planning to rent the former storage unit building, located on the ISM University campus, not as an Administrative building but as a beer pub. He noted that a tenant had not yet been found…. however indicated that the Church was actively pursuing potential tenants….
The number of establishments selling alcohol in the Vilnius Old Town is abundant. Numerous cafes, bars and pubs are located a few steps beyond the ISM University campus. Given this abundance of alcohol in the neighborhood, why does the Archdiocese have such a great desire to bring alcohol onto the ISM University campus? Why does the Church seek to encourage the use of alcohol among students? Furthermore – why is the ISM University administration taking a neutral stance on such a key issue which will affect the well being of their students?
University campuses should be a safe haven for students were they can focus on their studies and education. The ISM University campus in Vilnius lacks a cafeteria for their students. ISM also does not have a student center or student union. Instead the only food available to ISM students on campus is sold from vending machines. Since ISM does not have dormitories, all students commute to the ISM campus. Thus during their breaks between lectures they do not have a student center where they could enjoy a cup of coffee, grab a bite to eat, study or meet with their classmates.
The majority of universities abroad encouraged wellness and healthy choices to their students instead of promoting the use of alcohol. They have campus cafeterias, student unions and recreational facilities for their students. Furthermore, universities who are concerned with the wellbeing of their student body also offer counseling and intramural activities to their students.
Statistics show that Lithuania leads in suicides and alcohol abuse among youth when compared with other European countries. Thus it is all the more essential for universities in Lithuania to create campus environments which promote education and student well being.
Universities worldwide are taking a firm position against the sale and use of alcohol on campus. In Lithuania, the LCC University in Klaipeda serves as a fine example of this policy.