As of this week, University of Montana President Royce Engstrom will make the decisions as to where and when alcohol will be served at the Payne Family Native American Center on campus.

In June, the Missoula Urban Indian Health Center asked UM officials and the Board of Regents to ban alcohol from the Payne Family Native American Center on campus.

The issue arose during a conference entitled 'Walking Well With Historical Trauma', and a letter from Conference Director Lydia Silva and Conference Presenter Lida Running Crane was sent to the Native American Studies Department and the Board of Regents on May 10th.

In the letter, there was disappointment over the fact that alcohol was being served in the Payne Center during the conference. The participants were very uncomfortable around the presence of alcohol, due to its detrimental effect on the Native American population.

The issue was brought forward to University of Montana President Royce Engstrom, who considered the matter carefully and issued a new policy for the Payne Center on Thursday. Communications Director for the President's office, Paula Short said the president waited until all the parties involved had returned to campus so that all could be consulted.

"The President did take time to weigh that request, and also to consult with a variety of faculty and stakeholders on the issue, and just this week has issued his decision," Short said. "There will not be a complete ban on serving alcohol in the Payne Family Native American Center, but there will be some mitigations put in place"

"First," she continued. "The president will be reviewing all requests for catered events which are going to serve alcohol in the Payne Family native American Center, and he will be approving those prior to the event. In addition, we are looking at the scheduling of such events to make sure that we don't have a situation like we did last spring where we have two events that are so obviously conflicting in nature. On one hand, it's certainly mitigating with the scheduling, but also a higher level of consideration with the president himself deciding to those requests where alcohol will be served."

Short said despite the objections by some organizations and individuals, alcohol will not be banned in the Payne Center.

"Certainly, many organizations and groups love the Payne Family Native American Center and would occasionally like to use the center as well," Short added. "There might be some situations where serving alcohol would be appropriate or acceptable in that facility. It's certainly a thoughtful decision and a sensitive one, but we feel the best way to proceed is to go forward with some of these mitigations in place, so this will be the direction from here forward."


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