The Myth of Clandestine College Drinking

by The Discovering Alcoholic on September 17, 2009

Original pick by MonkeyMyshkin under creative commons license now at The Discovering Alcoholic

John M. McCardell Jr., president emeritus at Middlebury College and a member of the Amethyst Initiative urges a debate on lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18 stating that by doing so would bring college drinking out in the open so it could be better managed.

The problem today is reckless, goal-oriented alcohol consumption that all too often takes place in clandestine locations, where enforcement has proven frustratingly difficult. Alcohol consumption among young adults is not taking place in public places or public view or in the presence of other adults who might help model responsible behavior. But we know it is taking place. ~ CNN Commentary

I stress the last part of his commentary there because it should be self evident that it is not only true, but also counterproductive to his stance. College students aren’t going to do anything in the presence of adults that may discourage “model” behavior- eating, drinking, sex, drugs, and music are never going to be chaperoned activities.

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The college presidents who signed the Amethyst Initiative know where. It happens in “pre-gaming” sessions in locked dorm rooms where students take multiple shots of hard alcohol in rapid succession, before going to a social event where alcohol is not served. It happens in off-campus apartments beyond college boundaries and thus beyond the presidents’ authority; and it happens in remote fields to which young adults must drive.

McCardle can’t see the forest because of the trees! College students don’t social drink- they drink to get drunk. They warm up with cheap alcohol before going anywhere regardless if alcohol is served there or not (and if it’s not, then they have miniatures in the socks and baggies in the purses full of hard liquor). As far as the statement on “beyond the president’s authority” goes, well that sounds more like an ego problem than an issue of the minimum drinking age.

And where exactly has president McCardell been during football season? I was drinking openly while tailgating at college games in my early teens. Why? Because there was no enforcement and let’s face it- very little responsible behavior from alumni and adult fans! Excessive drinking by all ages at the game is traditional… and rampant.

It’s not clandestine drinking that is the problem, instead it’s the end goal of college drinkers (getting sloppy drunk) and the inexperience of those doing it. College students are going to gravitate toward lax environments regardless of the legal limit- and if you lower the drinking age, then there will be just that many more doing it! McCardell and his ilk don’t seem to grasp the concept that one need not lower the drinking age to go ahead and educate people about responsible drinking- and responsible drinking in my book doesn’t start until age twenty-one.

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