Donna Shalala's Wet Nightmare


Researching tomorrow's column, I came across a MADD quote from former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, now president of the University of Miami, condemning the college presidents who want "an informed and dispassionate public debate" about the drinking age:

As a three-time university president, I can tell you that losing a student to an alcohol-related tragedy is one of the hardest and most heart-rending experiences imaginable. Signing this initiative does serious harm to the education and enforcement efforts on our campuses and ultimately endangers young lives even more. I ask every higher education leader who has signed to reconsider. I am old enough to remember life on our campuses before the 21 year drinking rule. It was horrible.

I'm also old enough to remember life on our campuses before the 21-year drinking rule, which did not apply to students at my college until halfway through my sophomore year. I don't recall it as horrible, or notably worse than it was after most students were officially forbidden to drink. To the contrary, the new restriction was a pain in the ass that made it harder to drink beer with friends at bars near the campus and encouraged us to drink liquor in private instead.

Of course, I am a generation younger than Shalala. Maybe her "horrible" experience occurred when she attended Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio, in the early 1960s. It does not sound like a wild place, but who knows? Or maybe the alcohol-soaked hell was Hunter College, where Shalala was president from 1980 to 1987. Possibly she is overgeneralizing. Possibly I am. Does anyone else recall that life on campus was substantially more horrible when 18-to-20-year-olds drank legally than it was when they started drinking illegally?

NEXT: Can't Let Retailers Make Money Off Sick People

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I think her definition of “horrible” is “People had fun and colleges like Harvard didn’t have to bribe people to socialize on campus”.

  2. I remember UMASS/Amherst around 1983–before it had become a pc, smoke and alcohol-free hell.

    God it was awesome–we’d start slamming pitchers around 3pm Friday at the Blue Wall. Later . . well we’d do something, I can’t really recall.

  3. Fluffy,

    bribe people to socialize on campus”.

    Corruption is what alcohol free policies lead to.
    Just evil.

  4. I’m too young to remember being around when the drinking age was 18, but I lived through college with the age at 21. I know that kids were binge drinking in dorm rooms or houses, leading to at the very least hospitalization, about once a week or so.

    Off topic a little, but should it really matter how good or bad it supposedly was when considering whether or not to stop discriminating against a group of adults based on age?

  5. I think “resembles hell” and “had access to alcohol” are independent notions.

  6. When I was a freshman at Johns Hopkins they still had a student bar (in the base of Wolman or McCoy, I can’t remember) that was staffed by students and basically didn’t give the slightest shit about carding you, even though the drinking age had been 21 for a while. It was private property owned by the school so the cops didn’t care either. Of course, as soon as they renovated the building that place disappeared.

  7. What kicks me about comments from people like Shalala, president of a so-called educational institution, is that the mere notion of independent or rational inquiry is shown to be a thing only of convenience.

    Great lesson to teach the kids.

  8. As a parent, and as someone who drank enough in college to float a bus, I have an alternative proposal: Adjust the age of majority upward to, say, 30.

  9. I turned legal three times (18, 19, 21). I didn’t start going to bars until I was 20 and the guys I hung out with would suggest it. The next year we’d get together and be like “so wadda we want to do?” I’d say let’s go to The Bug Jar, and they’d say “Can’t we’re not old enough”. That was funny to me at the time. So instead of drinking in a bar we’d drink at someone’s house, or just out somewhere.

  10. I remember drinking in a bar in Anthony which straddled the Texas NM border when Texas had an 18 drinking age and NM had a 21 drinking age.

    The bar had a line painted down the middle.

    If’n you was under 21, you weren’t allowed in the NM portion of the bar.

    We usually set up a table to straddle the line for maximum silliness.

    I do think that differences in drinking ages between NM and Texas resulted in a huge number of DUI deaths as kids drove to Texas to drink…I seem to remember pretty good statistics showing a decrease in these deaths when Texas went 21.

  11. Maybe she’s just bitter because she couldn’t even get laid at the most Bacchanal of booze orgies, back in the day. I’d be angry, too.

  12. I do think that differences in drinking ages between NM and Texas resulted in a huge number of DUI deaths as kids drove to Texas to drink…I seem to remember pretty good statistics showing a decrease in these deaths when Texas went 21.

    I wonder if they would have also decreased if NM went to 18.

    Shalala doesn’t wonder. Shalala *knows*. Her command of subjunctive middle knowledge is that powerful.

  13. For the record, my best cold (i.e. unstudied) exam performances were alcohol-assisted.

  14. I am old enough to remember life on our campuses before the 21 year drinking rule. It was horrible.

    The biggest booze-soaked public blowouts I have ever seen in my life were on Shalala’s UW campus after the drinking age was raised. She is, and apparently always has been, a sanctimonious twat.

  15. Shalala doesn’t wonder. Shalala *knows*.

    Well played, Elemenope.

    I bet she refers to herself in the third person just so she can construct awesome and hilarious sentences like the above.

  16. One might discover it was worse. Which of course undermines both Shalala and the libertarian argument to drop the drinking age… just sayin’

  17. I went to school in Canada, where the drinking age was 19. I don’t recall it being particularly crazy, compared to the stories I hear from some friends here in the states. The fact that there were a number of pretty good pubs and clubs _on-campus_ meant that we rarely drove anywhere to go out. It’s hard to cause an accident when you’re walking.

    On the other hand, I remember a large number of Americans feeling persecution to have a beer on the northern side of the border. However, unlike me, they had to drive home… but I’m sure they always had a designated driver. (yeah right)

  18. Thx, Dagny.

    I bet she refers to herself in the third person

    With my unfortunately expansive close working experience with several denizens of a university’s upper administration, I can say I’ve only met two people whose egos reached the level of parody…but it strangely wasn’t the President, or any other first tier admin.

    One was a dean, and a less important one at that; ego inflated concomitant with her status as *married* to the president. The other was promoted sideways (to “vice president”) and out of the way to take charge of an embarrassing and failing satellite campus, where he could do little actual damage.

  19. I went to college on the border of Canada (Buffalo) and I was already 19 so… that plus the usual frat parties and other means of easily-obtained beverages means I didn’t suffer too much. Actually I didn’t start binge drinking until 21 anyway – with bars open until 4am it’s hard NOT to binge…

  20. Elemenope-5:42

    “president of a so-called educational institution’

    I take it you are not a ‘Canes fan.

  21. I remember Hocking College in 1993. I got stopped by local cops a couple of times, I was ALWAYS given warnings when drinking under age and I could tell the local cops didn’t really want to even have to do that. They had more important things to do than bust 18 year old college students for drinking. Their more important duties included earning money fopr the police station through enforcing spped limits.

  22. Neu Mejican-5:48

    “pretty good statistics”?

  23. I take it you are not a ‘Canes fan.

    It wasn’t so much a dig at the University of Miami so much as a dig at its leadership. I am intimately familiar with the ideological hypocrisy present at many institutions of education wherein there is supposed free inquiry and elevation of argument and rational analysis, and let very few of those things are in evidence when regarding the actual principles of operation of those institutions.

  24. At a certain eastern PA university in the mid 1980s we were always 21 (PA is) but many students came from NY (18) NJ (19). The school basically looked the other way. By the nature of the campus and fraternity life, almost everyone stayed on campus to party, perhaps venturing to one of the three off campus bars located at most 2 blocks away for a warm up. Very, very few people drove and most of the drinking was Hams or PBR or Gene kegs, once in awhile some grain.

    But in 1985 things changed when PA passed a new liability law which directly targeted the schools who did not make every effort ot prevent those under 21 from drinking. It ruined campus night life and resulted (over the ensuing years) any number of annoying, stupid and plain silly regs such as ID checks, wrist bands, BYOB check in/outs.

    Result? Less drinking on campus, more drinking off, more drinking miles away requiring a car and less consumption of really shitty beeer (ok, perhaps thats a positive).

  25. Libertymike,

    “pretty good statistics”?

    Me: “I seem to remember…”
    Sorry, no citation available.

    A good statistic, in this case, is one where the number of deaths decreases appreciably after the change in the rules.

  26. Has there ever been a college student who refrained from drinking because it was illegal? Even one?

  27. I remember life before hyperbole. It was the WORST THING EVER.

  28. If I recall right, when Cornell and Ithaca College are in session, the population of Ithaca, New York nearly doubles. I lived there for seven years before Prohibition at 18. There was nothing “horrible” about it. I do recall, however, that that town had one of the most vibrant live music scenes in the whole country, pound-for-pound. It was destroyed by Prohibition.

    Shalala is an idiot.

  29. I’m only old enough to remember life under the 21-year-old drinking rule.

    Kid dove out an 8 story window in the freshman dorm in September of my firs semester.

    You obviously feel very strongly about this question, Madame President. It’s very important; it is life and death. That makes it more important that we think really hard and not give into emotional reflexes, not less.

  30. There are many verses to Phil Harris’ old song, “That’s What I Like about the South,” but one more verse might have been about the fact that people ignore laws in the South.
    Where I went to college in Nashville in the early ’60’s, the law might have said you had to be 45 to have alcohol. Made no difference whatsoever.

  31. As a college student on commuter campus that was also over 21, I am largely unfamliar with the drinking problems on college campuses, except that I did see Animal House.

    But as I wrote before, as a 19 year old USMC PFC going to tech school at NAS Memphis I was more than grateful for the cheeseburgers and cold beer that we enjoyed at the Enlisted Men’s Club. Dude, it is hot & muggy in the summertime in Tennessee.

    Not many were getting falling down drunk and diving out of barracks windows. Not even the sailors. Course, there weren’t any 0311 grunts on base. We were all air wingers. 🙂

    Making the best of a less-than-perfect situation. Drinking beer, legally, at 19. It improved our lives and it left me with some pleasant memories.

  32. I support lowering it if only for the possibility that the stupid underclassmen at the local degree mill renting down the street from me start drinking in bars instead of in their backyard waking up my kid in the middle of the night. Any reduction in drinking age, however, should come with a course on how to handle your alcohol like a goddamn adult. Man, I’m getting old fast.

  33. Damn, I went to the wrong university! I had no experiences like that. Yeah, I got drunk a couple of times, but binging was completely foreign. We even had a pub on campus and I never saw anyone stagger back to the dorms drunk. During the same period a neighboring university was having a real problem with drinking.

    This was UCSD. What made us so different from the binge school (SCSU)? We didn’t have <gasp> fraternities. We didn’t ban them, we just didn’t support them with our tuition. If you wanted to form a fraternity you could, but not on university property and not with university funds. And if you got in trouble it was with the real police and real lawyers, not the fake plastic university analogues.

  34. JD just created a great bumper sticker (perhaps the Best EVER?).

  35. Downstater-

    Do those Salukis get too soused for ya?

  36. Elemeope-6:31

    Agreed. In the University of Miami’s case, you have another specie of higher educational hypocrisy: big time accademic standards give way to big time athletic considerations.

  37. The Egyptian Dogs are a bit south. I should have said the satellite campus the degree mill.

  38. Neu Mejican-

    My point is that I have very little faith in “statitistics” or “studies” trotted out by an organization seeking to get goodies from government, including busybody, totalitarian organizations like MADD that want to use gvt. to impose its will on society.

  39. JD-6:53-

    Too cool!

    Kool-you are right!

  40. Wine,

    My father was an air wing marine back in the mid 60s and he attended that school in Memphis. He says they used to go out to the smaller towns to drink because the bars there didn’t card. Apparently Tennessee had a 21 year old drikning age them. They would hitchhike back and some of the people back in the Tennessee woods were so scary that even Marines, needing a ride back 20 miles to base in risk of being late, would trun down the rides and rather walk. That story always amazed me.

  41. Downstater-

    I had the pleasure of being in Carbondale back in 2002 to see the then world champion New England Patriots play the Monsters of the Midway(Brady pulled it out late in the 4th quarter).

  42. Rev. Commonsewer,
    Have you read the book, “Boys of ’67”?
    It was written by the first cousin of General Jim Jones whom I had been plumping for Obama’s VP pick. (He deserted to McCain, alas.)
    Anyhow, I’m one of the “Boys of ’67.”
    We had a reunion this spring, and I’ve been pumped since.
    We spent most of a Saturday at the new Marine Corps Museum.

    BTW, in your post above I thought you might have made reference to “3.2” beer.

  43. John,
    As a native of TN, I have doubts about your father’s story. There are no woods around Memphis. Too flat.
    Scary people… that I could believe.

    But the scariest people in the world are Marine ReCons. And they could pop up anywhere.

  44. My point is that I have very little faith in “statitistics” or “studies” trotted out by an organization seeking to get goodies from government, including busybody, totalitarian organizations like MADD that want to use gvt. to impose its will on society.

    This was more like the kind of thing where you noticed that it seemed like less people were dying in car wrecks, and indeed when you counted there were less people dying in car wrecks.

    Then it got reported on the news.

  45. I went to UW Madison before the drinking age was raised. Every dorm and frat/sorority house and the student union had (lower alcohol content) beer on tap..People spent a lot of time in the bathrooms but I don’t recall more pressing problems than stepping around vomit on the streets early on Sunday morning.

  46. I served on a committee that had alcohol policy as part of its purpose during her tenure at UW Mad. I think there is unintentional truth in the quoted statement if you read it strictly. “Life on our campuses” were her words. What the 21 y.o. drinking age has done is push drinking into an off-campus, unsupervised environment where teens are teaching teens drinking behavior.

    The official purpose of the Memorial (student) Union on the U Wisc campus is to be the school of social education. The 21 year old drinking age has driven one of the most important parts of that social education, drinking and the conduct that goes with it, out of that mature and role model filled environment and into events where responsible adults (if they attend at all) have to adopt a see-no-evil approach to avoid be held legally accountable as an aware adult.

    We actually speculated (off the record) that the administration liked the policy not because it helped solve drinking problems, but because it reduced the university’s liability exposure. In other words, it is self serving hand washing and abdication of responsibility for students by the schools.

  47. “BTW, in your post above I thought you might have made reference to “3.2” beer.”

    One of the more amusing experiences I had in the USMC was watching a bunch of British marines trying to get drunk on 3.2 beer at Camp Lejeune in 1973.

  48. My former colleague Steve’s son enlisted in the Army at 18; he married his girlfriend when he was 19 on his mid-tour leave. When he got back from 15 months in Iraq, still 19, he couldn’t go out for a beer.

    We treat 18 as the age of adulthood for everything — except drinking. It doesn’t make sense.

    When kids move away from their parents’ control, many of them will drink stupidly. Most will wise up; a few will not. The legal drinking age determines who will go on the beer run.

  49. We actually speculated (off the record) that the administration liked the policy not because it helped solve drinking problems, but because it reduced the university’s liability exposure. In other words, it is self serving hand washing and abdication of responsibility for students by the schools.

    I served on a similar committee at the University of Rhode Island. Our agenda was more baldly driven by “alcohol reduction” by any means necessary. Liability was certainly one area that the University was concerned about, but there was a deeper ideological core driven by URI’s recent history and the appointment of a viciously anti-alcohol president.

    There were rules instituted (and reinforced) over the strong (read, nearly violent) objection of the student contingent such gems as:

    1. If there is alcohol (or drug) use discovered in a dorm room, *everyone in the room* is *automatically* liable, whether or not there is any evidence whether particular individuals were participating.

    2. If there is an alcohol or partying incident *off-campus*, after dealing with municipal law enforcement and courts, then a student would automatically face disciplinary proceedings by the school.

    The first caused people to be fined that were *sleeping in the room* where someone was drinking or smoking. The second caused the local police and the school to damage their privacy responsibilities to such an extent that they probably violated Federal law (FERPA).

    Did they care? No. It goes beyond limiting liability in many cases to embracing an actively pernicious agenda.

  50. Like a glorified kindergarten teacher. A real educator.

  51. “As a three-time university president…”

    Please don’t remind of, you corrupt bitch.

  52. The above sentence should read “Please don’t remind us”, not remind of.

  53. It’s important to remember that dropping the age to 18 also removes the positive connotation of being ‘rebellious’. I know between my friends and I, we all drastically reduced our drinking when we turned 21. Getting drunk became a special occasion event, not an every weekend event.

    At the bare minimum, a step plan could be implemented where those under 21 could drink, but would be cut off earlier? Personally, I think the age should be 18 period, but this would be better than nothing.

  54. I know exactly what she is talking about because I went to HS with Becky Herr, one of the victims she refers to.
    There was no way to get to/from Oxford except by ‘country roads’.
    In those days, driving US route 27 and Ohio 73 was taking your life in your hands, even sober.

    Nonetheless, I’m older {and ‘smarter’} than she is. Having raised four boys through dreading the late night call myself, I submit that retainiing the age at 21 only postpones maturity.

  55. And I too was stationed at NATC MEmphis in ’61 and never had trouble getting a beer if I wanted it.
    18 looked 15, last carded for cigs {18} at age 28.
    Good ol’ Millington!

  56. wtf, MADD is supposed to be about drunk driving, not prohibition. Give 18 year olds a freakin’ break – sign up for draft, check; join army, check; vote in federal, state and local elections, check. Drink a beer legally? NO F’in way in the USA.

  57. As a law student at UM during Shalala’s tenure, I saw how she tried, at every step to dry up the campus. She is a MADD darling, a modern temperancist.

  58. Man, I’m getting old fast.

    I am already old. The little effheads down the hill at the tennis court house rolled in on Sunday evening to party in daddy’s driveway.

    We’re talking a quarter mile away but it was so loud it may have been my own I-Pod. Between tracks I hollered down and asked them to turn it down.

    They fargin’ belched at me! And turned it up. 🙂

    At least they were playing Petty.

    Mrs TWC is pretty sure they couldn’t hear me at all and it was a coincidence. I am not so sure about that.

    Closed up the house, turned on the air, and my own tunes.

    I need drugs.

  59. Good ol’ Millington!

    I was there about ten years after you but they still had most of those old wooden firetraps they called barracks. Couldn’t smoke inside and the second floor was closed to occupancy.

    Heard that the base is closed down now.

  60. What made us so different from the binge school (SCSU)?

    Dude, San Diego State is party school USA. I know that Santa Cruz tries to claim the title, but they are laggin’……..

    Fish Tacos, Man!

    Mrs TWC went to SDSU for a semester or two and she was in the debate program. Can you guess the speech team’s motto?

    We Speak. And Party Too!

    For the record, Mrs TWC is not and has never been a party hearty sort of chick. That is handy for me because it means I married my designated driver. She don’t even mind, neither.

    BTW, my cousin, Mr Mac (Jason Snell), went to UCSD.

  61. Wow, Joanne Jacobs commented on this thread?

    That’s pretty cool.

    For those of you who don’t know, she is an education blogger of some renown and is also the blogmother of Reason’s own Director of Education.

  62. ….even Marines, needing a ride back 20 miles to base in risk of being late, would trun down the rides and rather walk.

    Pretty sure I was there in 1971 (God, that is not possible, I swear I am not that old).

    Drinking age was 19 at the time. We used to hang sometimes at a bar called the Longbranch just outside the gates in the little town of Millington.

    Didn’t ever see any Deliverance types but the only hitchhiking we did was straight into Memphis on the main road. Hwy 51 I think it was.

    Lots of friendly people, still a few places that would ignore you if you had a black guy with you. They never said anything just wouldn’t serve your table.

    The only regret I have is that I never got to Beale Street. It was off limits and the Shore Patrol had it staked out. There was simply no way you wouldn’t get arrested. Marines just didn’t blend in well in 1971.

  63. Rev. Commonsewer,
    Have you read the book, “Boys of ’67”?

    Haven’t read it David, but that is way cool that you are one.

    There are no woods around Memphis.

    Speaking of woods, I got lost in Shelby Park once. Not for very long. But, man, I’m from Californicate and the trees are far apart, even in the forest. I walked out into the woods about twenty yards and turned around, I couldn’t see anything but trees. And they were about six inches apart. 🙂

  64. For those of you who don’t know, she is an education blogger of some renown and is also the blogmother of Reason’s own Director of Education.

    She makes a lot of sense, too. Also, mega-Kudos to JD.

  65. BTW, in your post above I thought you might have made reference to “3.2” beer.

    I think I did the other day.

    The only numbers I referred to today was 0311 which was the MOS for infantry (grunts).

  66. In the Army, we call ’em 11Bs.

  67. Oh, and for the record, I didn’t do anything of note while under the tutelage of Uncle Sam and his Misguided Children. Except I had a back seat flying license and I swiped a jeep at Camp Pendleton to go four wheeling.

    At my kids school they do this big 9/11 cermony where they honor the vets (and the cops and firefighters). Last year my mom is asking me how come I’m not up there with the rest of them. I look at her and smile and say, Sonny (her husband) was a door gunner on a helicopter, how come he ain’t up there? He’s someone who deserves a little recognition. I didn’t do squat, except figure out how to game the system ala Catch 22.

  68. Also, mega-Kudos to JD

    Yeah, that was pretty good.

  69. Millington is still open (don’t know if they still call it a NAS or if even the flight line is still there). They moved all the aviation tech schools to Pensacola, but ’round ’99 or so they moved Navy BUPERS and some subordinate commands (like Recruiting) to the base. And I think about the same time they pretty much tore down every old building and put up new ones.

    Once you go BRAC, you always come back.

  70. Shalala-la-la was right about one thing. I went to school in Cleveland in the early ’60s, the same time she went to college in Ohio. All we could drink (legally, that is) was 3.2 beer, which was horrible. Ecchhh, the awful taste lingered for decades.

  71. I can tell you, having lived in aforementioned Carbondale for the first 18 years of my life (still kind of do in the summer), and currently at Stanford University as a undergrad…things work better when the university doesn’t care.

    At Stanford, we have an alcohol policy that’s something akin to “don’t be stupid” and it works quite well. I would say that 99.99% of the time, we don’t have any problems, and when we do, we feel like we can be responsible people and handle the situation in intelligent ways because we’re not particularly afraid of any consequences (if someone at a party is dangerously drunk, we call the cops and they will take said person to the hospital, not giving a shit about the underage drinking at the party.)

    In Carbondale, people put themselves in sticky situations all the time, but no higher authority ever gets called because, well, everyone is drinking and we’re damn sure not going to call the cops and have them come to our party.

  72. Matthew says: “I remember UMASS/Amherst around 1983…

    Later . . well we’d do something, I can’t really recall.”

    Hmm- blind drunk in Amherst, 1983… you went to the Whately Diner man. Any idiot could fill in your amnesia given a lead-in like that. Let’s recall that panty-raids on Smith were generally met with gunfire by 1983. The Whately Diner is the only remaining alternative.

    In other news, it’s possible that joe and I were once schoolmates. Signing off, and showering vigorously…

  73. I was in college 25 years ago and I am of the impression that alchohol wasn’t as aggressively marketed as it is today.

  74. Donna Shalala’s story doesn’t ring true. Didn’t Ohio have a drinking age of 21 back in her college years?

  75. Donna’s still ticked off because she was never tall enough for the bartender to notice her when she bellied up to the bar.

    Poor little thing.

  76. I turned 18 when that was the legal drinking age in my state. Back when the states made that decision. I saw a mix of responsible and irresponsible drinking. Just as I have seen every year since then.

  77. MG,
    Ohio allowed 18 year-olds to drink for a long time. I live in Indiana. I used to hear a lot of stories from boomers who would go over to Ohio to get hammered when they were in college.

  78. The bossiness of so-called liberals is boundless.

    We must get the government out of the business of subsidizing the intelligentsia and get them off the backs of the people.

    They live off the people by the privilege of legislation, and don’t even have the class to be grateful. Instead, they devote their energies to ever more tyranny by government.

    We must let them go. Flipping burgers for a week produces more wealth than entire academic careers.

  79. I went to college in NJ as they were raising the drinking age – I was legal in NJ in HS. Keeping high school kids from purchasing alcohol – that I can live with. That was the main impact when NJ raised the drinking age to 19 (when I was a freshman) – and on campus at the time the main focus was to keep HS kids from crashing your parties. Drinking and driving was irrelevant for me in college – everyone lived on campus and hardly anyone had cars.

    There is probably not a safer environment to learn to drink than a residential college/university (leaving parents/home out of it). You have medical staff near to hand, no need to drive, and (one would hope) a social network to help look out for you. Driving that underground/off campus never made any sense to me.

  80. As graduate of the University of Miami, I am disappointed in Donna Shalala’s comments. I suspect her position was strategically chosen based on UM’s historic reputation as a party school and her current, otherwise excellent, efforts to raise the school’s reputation.

    I also attended another reputed “party” school, that one in Colorado, back in the days of 3.2 beer. I can honestly say there wasn’t an ounce of difference between the campus environments then and now. Both school’s reputation for parties was vastly over-exaggerated and, I suspect, tolerated as part of strategic marketing efforts to attract students.

    This isn’t to say that kids didn’t drink at all, but rather to observe that what did occur under both scenarios, forbidden or allowed, was about what one would expect from normal teen behavior. Laws don’t change human behavior, proper rearing does. As long as puritanical American parents continue to treat alcohol as forbidden fruit, kids will desire to taste it — no matter their age.

    In contrast, Europeans raise their children with alcohol as just another beverage, one to be used responsibly, and to my observation only that produces a better result.

  81. Paul, as an alumni of U of M, I’m sure you could write a snappy letter to that effect to U of M. If it’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that schools listen attentively to alumni, if for no other reason than that they are potential donors.

  82. I can honestly say there wasn’t an ounce of difference between the campus environments then and now.

    I know what you mean. The only difference I could think of would be the pernicious effect of the atmosphere of deception that continued escalation of the enforcement attempts has created.

    The age was already 21 by the time I went to school. I attended a school where housing was segregated by age, in part to try to police the drinking of underclassmen. There was lots of drinking, accompanied by lots of deceit. I also spent a lot of time visiting a college with virtually zero drinking code enforcement [it was an all-female school with student housing that mixed all ages together, so it was impractical to try to restrict booze from entering the houses] and there was the same amount of drinking, but a lot less lying, hiding, smuggling, etc. The latter atmosphere was much, much more pleasant.

  83. The premise that the national government should have this authority over us is appalling.

  84. The latter atmosphere was much, much more pleasant.

    Are you sure you aren’t conflating the effects of the alcohol policy with those of being a guy visiting an all-girls school?

  85. Are you sure you aren’t conflating the effects of the alcohol policy with those of being a guy visiting an all-girls school?

    Well, I guess that may have helped.

  86. I went to college in Kansas back in the late ’70s and early ’80s when the law here was 18 for cereal malt beverage (3.2 beer, which it wasn’t) and 21 for strong beer, wine and distilled spirits. Aggieville had a mix of 3.2 and alcohol establishments and business was good. There was also, naturally, a thriving trade in fake I.D., but I (and most of my friends) never bothered, neither seeing the necessity nor willing to chance getting busted for it.

    I’ve long thought the split law was a good idea for reasns already stated above and, having been somewhat politically active even back then, railed against the change that eliminated it.


  87. It turned to 21 in Louisiana when I was thirteen. The University of New Orleans, a bland, cheap, medium-sized urban public commuter school where I went was an open campus where the average freshman was 28 years old and married. It wasn’t unusual to see guys having a beer in the quad before classes, especially the evening classes. We drank beers in the parking lot and breeze way of the engineering building after exams and finals regularly. About 500 out of the 14,000 students lived on campus. Frats and sororities weren’t supported by the school and were comically small and ineffectual. My college experience was almost the exact opposite of whatever the “standard” is supposed to be.

  88. “wtf, MADD is supposed to be about drunk driving, not prohibition.”

    Think of it as mission creep

    Often the case of keeping the money flowing into the organization long after the original goals were achieved.

  89. Bottom line:
    Drinking, careless driving and drugs will destroy you if you let them!

  90. I was in college 25 years ago and I am of the impression that alchohol wasn’t as aggressively marketed as it is today.

    That’s because everybody was doing drugs. With a sixer of Bud on hot days.

  91. I’m old enough to remember when the Canadians came to NY (18) to drink. After HS graduation we adjourned to a bar to celebrate. Then I went to school in a state (Ill) where the drinking age was 21.

    I know more drinking was done there (illegally) in the dorms. We used to keep our beer between the window and the screen in winter to keep it cold. We’d send juniors on beer runs with suitcases Friday nights, and the trash cans were full of empties by Monday. (I can still remember our RA pleading with us to at least make an attempt to be discreet. We ignored him, but got him a quart of Scotch at the end of the year for being a good sport about it.)

    I was already 21 by the time I got out of boot camp, so nothing the USMC did affected my use of alcohol. Especially since I spent most of my time in Japan, where the drinking age was something like 19 or 20 and not enforced. You could buy beer from vending machines.

    In every environment, at every age, there were abusers. I’m in favor of a single age for majority, which should include voting, drinking, and driving. How about 18?

  92. I’ve gone to the hospital for alcohol poisoning. I’ve also (on separate occasions) been knocked out, been stranded, walked 8 miles home blind drunk, woken up confused in a vineyard, etc. I could go on. I did all of these things before I turned 21.

    Why didn’t the law stop me from all of this? Because I was a fucking idiot, which is something that you can never legislate against.

  93. I went to school in Montreal. The drinking age in Quebec is 18, which meant that the overwhelming majority of incoming freshmen were drinking in bars from day 1.

    The major difference? Drinking and socializing legally in a place of public business is a lot safer than partying underage in a skeezy frat house. The beer tends to be better, too.

  94. “””Has there ever been a college student who refrained from drinking because it was illegal? Even one?”””

    I think more college students refrain because God says so. At least more so than because the government said so.

    I say you should be allowed to do adult things when you become an adult. I’m not suprised that many in this country can’t understand that concept.

    I don’t really see things as worse back then, they seem to be about the same but with more fun.

  95. With many new announcement about the wizard of oz movies in the news, you might want to consider starting to obtain Wizard of Oz book series either as collectible or investment at

  96. I’m not usually one to eagerly await academic journal symposiums

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.