You may have heard by now that college kids like to drink. That may come as a surprise, because since the passage of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, under which the legal drinking age was raised to 21 from 18, alcohol consumption has been strictly forbidden for many American college students.
But while the feds may have scared the states into compliance, they certainly haven’t scared the kids. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than 70 percent of 18-year-olds have had at least one drink. Worse yet, the average young drinker will consume about five drinks in one sitting.
Truth be told, our laws actually encourage this kind of dangerous behavior. With drinking illegal, kids are forced to take the practice underground, to dorm room pregames and sketchy bars, where they gulp down as much as possible before reentering the law-and-order-Richard-Nixon-obsessed “real world.”
Even worse, these irrational, fantasy-induced laws compel young people to come to the (somewhat accurate) conclusion that the legal system is bogus and unworthy of their obedience. That’s why they get the fake IDs, the pot and the Adderall. If you make citizens feel alienated and unrepresented by the laws that govern them, don’t expect them to follow along.
In a perfect world, our government would face reality and would stop criminalizing seven out of 10 otherwise honorable, hard working college students. Drinking could happen on campus, in a supervised setting, and dangerously traveling around would no longer be necessary; pregame binging would be replaced with responsible, friendly drinking; fake IDs would no longer be necessary, and we would stop handing over profits to people trying to undermine the regulatory system; and, most importantly, cops could start focusing on real crimes, and maybe young people would start having more reverence for the law.
Fortunately, some smart, influential people are starting to move in the right direction. As of this writing, 136 university presidents from schools all across the country have signed a letter circulated by the Amethyst Initiative, which calls on our elected officials “[t]o support an informed and dispassionate public debate over the effects of the 21 year-old drinking age.”
There’s a name missing, however: President Harvey Stenger’s. As the so-called “premier public university of the Northeast” and an instrumental voice in the State of New York, it would certainly not hurt to have Binghamton University behind this initiative, and who better to lead that effort than the much respected President Stenger?
It’s easy: Just visit www.theamethystinitiative.org/statement, print it, sign it and fax it. It’s that simple.
The author C.S. Lewis told us that “You cannot make men good by law.” Mr. Stenger, if you fail to complete this simple task, consider yourself complicit in the failed 30-year initiative to morally cleanse America’s youth with a gavel and some handcuffs.
I’m off to become the proverbial Binghamton-to-Cornell transfer student, making this my final column for Pipe Dream. My time here was short, but I’ll carry the memories and lessons forever. To my editors, my fellow writers and especially my readers — whose harsh commentary more than once scared my mom into asking me to please remove my picture from the paper — I could not be more grateful. Your passion, hard work and enthusiasm are eternal sources of hope.