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Two Approaches to Curbing Student Drinking Problems

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The first comes from Tufts, via the invaluable Inside Higher Ed:

Lawrence Bacow, president of Tufts University, has been inviting students who are mentioned in police reports to his office, so he can talk to them one-on-one about the risks of excessive drinking, The Boston Globe reported. In the article, Bacow argues that cultural shifts are needed to change drinking patterns, and so he asks students not only to change their own behavior but to look out for their friends. He started the effort after an incident this fall when he was walking back to his house, along with the president of Bowdoin College, after Tufts had defeated Bowdoin in football in the homecoming game, and he found a fire truck and an ambulance there, dealing with an intoxicated student. "There's a student passed out on my lawn," Bacow told the Globe. "At 3:30 in the afternoon!"

I sympathize with Bacow regarding substance abuse by students, but however heartfelt his approach is, it doesn't really get at those drinking patterns he wants to change.

For that, check out this Reason.tv video produced by Paul Feine and Alex Manning and featuring University of the South/Sewanne president (and former Middlebury president) John McCardell. McCardell's crazy idea? End the prohibitionist mind-set that triumphed on campuses by the late 1980s and actually give kids some basic instruction on how to drink without puking your guts out. As he notes, no one expects a 16 year old to be able to drive a car without practice and instruction.

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  1. I agree that it is not possible to drink responsibly without learning how, which is why the way we assume people can drink responsibly at 21 is stupid. However, how is teaching responsibility going to reduce the problem of children drinking before they are legally entitled to drink? How can we teach kids under 21 responsibility, without actually trying drinking, while they are underage and obviously not supposed to drink. Perhaps they should take a course that involves social drinking at 21 in order to get a license that is required to buy drinks.

    1. For one thing, parents should not face criminal penalties for allowing their under 21 children to drink. I think a lot of the problems with excessive underage drinking is the lack of shame. If everyone you drink with also has little experience and goes crazy and pukes everywhere, why wouldn’t you. If you are allowed to do some drinking in more adult situations, you are going to notice that you look like an ass if you get shitfaced.

  2. I say increase the age of majority!

  3. Yes, nothing gets through to college students like a heartfelt talk.

    1. BUT PATERNALISM ALWAYS WORKS!11!1ONEONEONEONE!

  4. Yes, nothing gets through to college students like a heartfelt talk.

    “OKAY, OKAY, I get it. Can we fuck now?”

  5. Drink up!! We got some TRAINING GOIN ON NOW, BITCHES!!!

    WWOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! Mmmnff…mmnnfff…

    **hurls on shoes of girls he’s trying to impress**

  6. I still find it amazing that we can ask 18 year old to give their lives for the sake of the country, but they can’t have a beer.

    I was a teenager once; we all were. How can this be so hard to figure out? I was never a drinker in high school or college, mostly because my parent gave me sips of wine here or there, and when we did have family cookouts and such, my parents always drank responsibly. I can picture my dad with a beer in his hand a thousand different times, but I don’t ever remember him being wasted.

    My friends who got wasted all the time were the ones who’s parents lectured them over and over again about not drinking. It’s like putting a giant elephant in the middle of the room and telling everyone not to look at the elephant. You’re gonna look at the elephant. Drinking becomes alluring because it’s off limits. Most of my friends drank in high school because they were excited by the fact that it was somehow ‘wrong’, and they though it was cool to try to pull the wool over their parents’ eyes.

    1. 18 year olds can drink on military bases.

      1. Hobie – They might, but they’re not supposed to.

        “This law is also codified in DoD Instruction 1015.10, which states:

        The minimum drinking age on a DoD installation located in a State (including the District of Columbia) shall be consistent with the age established by the law of that State as the State minimum drinking age.”

        There is an exception – if the base is within 50 miles of the Canadian or Mexican border.

      2. Only if it’s legal off base. Like in Germany.

      3. Hobie, No, they cannot. I would say that the Class 6 stores are stricter than non-military liquor stores anywhere.

    2. they cant run for president either. While I agree with your overall point, one has really nothing to do with the other.

    3. Agreed. I was a teen in the 70s. My parents allowed me to take sips from their beer/wine once I was interested. Once I was a teenager, around 14-15, my dad would make me a small drink, with half the alcohol. I gradually began to share a bit of wine or sherry with meals. So throughout my teenage years, my parents were actually demonstrating alcohol use to me. I had a couple of experiences with friends for whom alcohol was forbidden territory, and whoa, what a difference. One night we almost got picked up by the cops. Ditto for college, where while I drank more, I was well able to restrain myself, while classmates passed out & puked, & all that.

      I just don’t see how we can reasonably expect teenagers to “learn” to drink responsibly, if it’s totally forbidden to them. Then it’s just an exciting opportunity to go wild when they are able to drink.

  7. When I started college, fraternity rush was still “wet.” I attended a bunch of rush events where we would hang out and drink a few beers from the keg. I would frequently go, have a few drinks, then go home sober enough to get some studying done.

    During my second year, alcohol was banned at rush events. Which meant that all events were officially “dry.” But we would usually take some rushees out privately beforehand and all do a bunch of shots together, so we could all show up plastered to the “dry” event.

    Even at the time, I marveled at how counterproductive this rule change was.

    1. How can anyone pretend that there is any point to a fraternity rush (or any other fraternity event) other than drinking a lot?

      1. Getting laid.

        1. “getting laid”? What, with each other?

  8. The 21 drinking age puts us in excellent company, Fiji, Pakistan, Palau abd Sri Lanka. The rest of the first world is 18, some are 16.

    http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/legaldrinkingage.html

  9. How punchable is that MADD drone’s face?

  10. yeah no one should pass out on anyone’s lawn before 5 pm.

    1. But don’t watch the clock before you do; that’s a sign of alcoholism.

  11. This only proves that the government should ban alcohol like the other poisonous drugs.

  12. Back in 1980 at the University of Florida (drinking age 18) there was a group called Bacchus that promoted anti-alcohol abuse. They threw a few parties each quarter, always serving alcohol. The beautiful thing was no one wanted to go to a Bacchus party, so there was always plenty of alcohol available.

    1. I played for a Bacchus convention in college jazz band one time. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I was a bit hung over that morning, and the tenor sax player sitting next to me was soaking his reeds in vodka (he swore it kept the fibers from breaking down as quickly as if he’d been soaking them in water).

  13. Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.

  14. I allow my now 20 year old daughter to drink with us in social settings, including on trips to Europe where it is legal for her. I kept my eye on her and just observed how she handled it.

    It’s not a guarantee as she was arrested at Lake Havasu for under age drinking when some ass called the cops in a hotel on her.

    Still, I think that was a fluke and I worry less about her than some of her friends.

    1. That’s wonderful. How much did the hotel at Lake Havasu get fined for allowing her to drink there. I assume you paid their fine.

  15. Restore academic standards so that students do not have so much ‘free’ time. This is the ONLY solution to the drinking problem.

    Academic standards have gone to hell at almost every university because university administrators emphasize (and reward) research at the expense of quality teaching. As a result, faculty shirk on their teaching–no research papers, quizzes and exams that are multiple choice, hence easy to grade, and no interaction with students. Students spend less time on class work out of class than they spend in class. Result = tons of free time. And when college kids have free time, they do what we too did when that age: party and drink.

    Of course, dumb-ass administrators will not address this fundamental problem because they don’t want to pressure faculty to raise academic standards…..because teaching high-quality courses is very difficult and very time consuming. And we wouldn’t want college faculty, most of whom are only teaching two courses a semester, to miss the opportunity to write/publish the one millionth article on Shakespeare (….that no one will ever read).

    1. Actually Rich it’s completely the opposite, at least at Tufts where my son goes. He (along with many other students especially in Science and Engineering) studies 4-6 hours each day and then uses the weekends to let off steam. Bacow is actually pretty engaged for a University President and is trying to work within the constraints of a stupid law.

      The problem we have in this country is that 1/3 of the population are essentially Puritans and need to make sure the rest of us are as miserable as they are.

  16. lower the drinking age and raise the driving age!! Drunk driving was the driver behind the 21 age, yet there is no way a new drinker knows when they’ve had too much. Teach them to drink first THEN teach them to drive.
    Of course parents through out the country would balk because it would mean driving your teens during HS, and what parent doesn’t celebrate the day they stop being a chauffeur? Still, if we had to drive our teens everywhere, even to the bar and home, there would be a) few teen wrecks, and maybe b) few teen pregnancies!

    1. I”m not sure that would work so well. You want people learning to drive while they’re in college? Miles away from their parents, in some cases? Bad idea…

  17. Part of why there are fewer drunk driving accidents is that it’s been drummed into the kids’ heads since elementary school to not drink and drive. I can tell when my 20-year-old son is planning a big night when he gets picked up by someone else so I just tell him to be careful. He’s not one to get totally hammered but all the kids seem to plan their evenings around who is willing to be the designated driver. My 18-year-old son doesn’t drink (yet, because he’s been a 3 sport athlete in high school and has not been willing to risk the penalties, but he’s heading to a Big 10 University in August) but I still tell him every time he goes out, “don’t drink and drive”. I think the message should not be “don’t drink” but “don’t drink and drive”. I live in a different Big 10 town and I read the police report every day and the people being arrested for drunken driving are not usually high school and college students, but people in their 40’s and 50’s.

  18. Oh, I forgot to say that MADD representative is so annoying that she makes you want to go out and toss back a few. They need to get someone less self righteous.

  19. My eldest son graduated from Sewanee in 2007. I was quite impressed by their take on responsible alcohol use by the students. I currently work at an SEC school where 30+ years ago beer could be had at 18 and liquor at 21. I realize that social mores have changed substantially during the last 30+ years, but when I was 18, most of the students drank in a manner similar to Sewanee’s in the 2003 to 2007 period. I truly believe that Sewanee is trying to teach a skill that most Universities and Colleges have either forgotten about or are afraid to talk about.

  20. When I was in college, there was 3.2% beer at age 18. There were several advantages to this:

    1) It is impossible to get alcohol poisoning and die with 3.2 beer. You can still wreck your car or throw up on your date, but you can’t drink enough of it to get to a lethal BAC.

    2) It tended to separate the college kids from the adults.

    3) Going into a bar was not a big deal. Now kids worry about getting in with a fake ID and tend to consume more when they do get past the door.

    Bring back 3.2 beer! It was “lite” beer before Lite beer was invented.

  21. 1) Lower drinking age to 18.
    2) Enact 5-year loss of license penalty for anyone under 21 driving with *any* measurable quantity of blood alcohol.
    3) Enact 3-year loss of license (or delay in acquiring license) for anyone under 21 in the same car with driver above.

  22. I’d be ok with the legal age being set to 19.

    I’d say 18, but 18 = Senior in high school, and I don’t know if it has changed but when I was in school there were lots of 18 year olds hanging out with 16 year olds.

    19 and you are away at college or in the workforce.

    Workable compromise?

    1. Actually, the drinking age was 19 in many states for just that reason…until the federal government all but forced them to change it to 21 or face loss of federal highway funds.

  23. Techie has a good point that 18 year old high school students will likely be sharing the alcohol they buy legally with underage friends. Of course, it seems that high school kids get alcohol pretty readily anyway.
    A huge issue is the penalties that adults face for allowing minors to drink at home. I know my son sometimes drinks at a friend’s house. I am much happier knowing that 1) he is in a safe place and not driving 2) a sober adult is present to keep an eye on things and head off potential problems. His friend’s parents know he has my permission, but they still take a risk by allowing him to drink in their home.
    I like the idea of 3.5% beer, and allowing parents to permit social drinking at home- Both ideas would enable kids to learn how to drink responsibly.

  24. This brings up something I have always wondered.

    Why do we, in the US, teach people to drive at ages ranging from 15-18, allow them to get a license and drive for a few years until they think it is second nature to them, then, and ONLY then, do we hand them a bottle of tequila and say, OK, go party.

    Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

    Let them learn to drink FIRST, from an early age, in a family or community setting, then, and ONLY then, after they have learned to drink responsibly, do we hand them the keys to the car and say, go on a road trip.

  25. This entire discussion strikes me as a bit odd, because I raised my children in Qu?bec and from the time they could hold a cup they’d have a bit of wine at meals with us.

    When they were able to do numbers we talked about body mass and proportions. I still remember when the oldest informed me that his body mass was now a third of mine, rather than a quarter, and that he was entitled to a bit more wine. (-:

    It is not uncommon in Montr?al to see a 12-year-old enjoying wine with parents at a street bistro. Nor is it uncommon to see workers downing a small glass of wine as part of their 10:30 break.

    Somehow it all seems rather more civilised than America, where almost one-third of voters would favor a re-instatement of Prohibition. Like that worked out so well last time. I have potted plants with more common sense.

    Four and twenty Yankees
    Feeling kind of dry,
    Snuck across the border
    To grab a glass of rye.

    When the rye was opened
    The Yanks began to sing:
    God Bless America, but
    God Save the King!

  26. Why don’t we follow the suggestion of the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and drop the drinking age but raise the driving age? It’s easier to enforce the driving age and will give teens the change to sample drinking well before driving.

  27. When I began grad school one of my study groups typically got together from about 7 pm until midnight to work on homework (yes, it took that long – physics PhD program). The bar across the street from the department had a $2 Guinness and Bass special on Mondays. So our group would take a break at about 9 pm, before the bar got crowded, go have one good beer as our treat for the week, and then be back studying by 9:45.

    Every time I ever invited an undergrad to join us, they would say, “I can’t. I have to study.” When I stressed we did too and would only have one, they would stare at me in disbelief. The idea that you could stop after one and not continue until you were nonfunctional simply didn’t occur to them, and long habit made it impossible to do. I was repeatedly told that they couldn’t start drinking unless it was with the goal of getting sloppy drunk.

    When you drive the drinking underground, students learn how to drink from other students trying to get drunk and not responsible adults. To take McCardell’s analogy one step further: zero tolerance also makes it likely a teen can’t watch anyone else drive a car — unless it’s on TV or in the movies.

  28. Or you could just force them to drink Heineken Premium Light, which is pretty much 98% water.

  29. In Ohio a Parent, Legal Guardian, or Spouse over 21 may Legally serve alcohol to their children under 21 or to their spouse who is under 21. The Legal Adult must order, pay for the alcohol, and the alcohol must be consumed in the presence of the Legal Adult. Now a restaurant may occasionally get their panties in a bind about it and ask you to leave but it is perfectly Legal as it should be. Actually the Legal drinking age should be lowered to 18. If your old enough to Marry, old enough to Join the Military, old enough to Vote, old enough to go to Prison for Life, old enough to be Sued, and old enough to sign a Contract you should be old enough to have a Beer.

  30. JCee – You forgot: …old enough to increase the number of drunk driving fatalities by 10,000/year. 18-year olds kill more people driving sober every year than 21-year olds do both osber and drunk…so by all means, lets let them drink legally. Let’s just not let them drive till they’re 21 in return…deal? Go Bucks!

  31. Gunga,
    I would state that the number of deaths would be nowhere near your numbers do largely to multiple factors.

    1) Total US Drunk Driving deaths was 13,846 in 2008 no way in heck you add anywhere by adding 5-6% more legal drinkers to the driving pool.(http://www.alcoholalert.com/drunk-driving-statistics.html)
    2)Most of the people interested in drinking in 18-21 age group already are doing so illegally don’t pretend otherwise.
    3)Legalizing the 18-21 group will reduce the Binge drinking. The drink it quickly now before we get caught. It will socialize it to more casual usage (you’ll still get the occasional Binge Drinking event everybody loves a roaring party once in a while).
    4) The Drunk Drive percentage of fatalities in automobile accident has gone down steadily from 51% in 1990 to 37% in 2008 years after the drinking ages were raised. The combination of education, enforcement, and social unacceptability produced those drops and should be maintained in the 18-21 year old.

    Now as to raising the driving age to 21 how far do you go with paternalist over-protectionism.
    1)Are 16-21 year old’s bad drivers because they are young or are they bad because they are inexperienced. If so by raising the Driving age to 21 you now make the 21-25 year old’s the worse drivers.
    2) By your logic if we restrict driving to 30-50 year old’s we’ll reduce automobile deaths by ~66% heck we can eliminate them totally by banning cars. But why not ban swimming pools, bath tubs, lakes, rivers, streams and the ocean as ~4000 people per year drown per year http://www.soyouwanna.com/site…..full.html. Lets ban margarine, butter, and oils and require everybody to steam or bake their food this will save 100,000s of people per year from heart disease related deaths.

  32. Gunga,
    I would state that the number of deaths would be nowhere near your numbers do largely to multiple factors.

    1) Total US Drunk Driving deaths was 13,846 in 2008 no way in heck you add anywhere by adding 5-6% more legal drinkers to the driving pool.(http://www.alcoholalert.com/drunk-driving-statistics.html)
    2)Most of the people interested in drinking in 18-21 age group already are doing so illegally don’t pretend otherwise.
    3)Legalizing the 18-21 group will reduce the Binge drinking. The drink it quickly now before we get caught. It will socialize it to more casual usage (you’ll still get the occasional Binge Drinking event everybody loves a roaring party once in a while).
    4) The Drunk Drive percentage of fatalities in automobile accident has gone down steadily from 51% in 1990 to 37% in 2008 years after the drinking ages were raised. The combination of education, enforcement, and social unacceptability produced those drops and should be maintained in the 18-21 year old.

    Now as to raising the driving age to 21 how far do you go with paternalist over-protectionism.
    1)Are 16-21 year old’s bad drivers because they are young or are they bad because they are inexperienced. If so by raising the Driving age to 21 you now make the 21-25 year old’s the worse drivers.
    2) By your logic if we restrict driving to 30-50 year old’s we’ll reduce automobile deaths by ~66% heck we can eliminate them totally by banning cars. But why not ban swimming pools, bath tubs, lakes, rivers, streams and the ocean as ~4000 people per year drown per year http://www.soyouwanna.com/site…..full.html. Lets ban margarine, butter, and oils and require everybody to steam or bake their food this will save 100,000s of people per year from heart disease.

  33. There have been calls in Australia to increase the legal drinking age to 21. Kids here can drink legally when they turn 18. In Victoria, it is also the time that they can get their probabtionary driver’s license, in some states they can get it when they are 17. It seems like a bad mix even though they must have a zero alcohol blood reading when driving for the 3 year probabtionary period.
    We have a huge problem with drinking in this country and it is becoming more and more an issue with teenagers and young adults, it is leading to street violence and very anti social behaviour, which Australia was not known for in times gone by. So my point here is that the younger legal drinking age in this country doesn’t seem to help. Most research I have read tells us that the kid’s are just drinking illegally at much younger ages than they used too. They also have the money to do it. I cant say what the answer is but maybe lowering the age wont make much difference if the Australian experience is anything to go by.Other things need to be put into place first.Another point is that hotels and nightclubs benefit more financially if the legal age is dropped. Good luck with it!

  34. It’s too early

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