FOR THE QC
Last year, Whittier College campus had five incidents of emergency transport for alcohol related injury. This year, in the past 53 days alone, Whittier has already had seven emergency transports. “It’s only a matter of time before we lose someone,” Director of Campus Safety Timm Browne said at senate forum last month. This culture of binge drinking leads to poor decision-making, and it is a culture that we should aim to shift away from.
The main objective of the forum was to discover ways of promoting responsible drinking on campus as opposed to binge drinking. The conclusion I came to was nothing will change until we, the student body, want it to. The administration can make alcohol awareness presentations mandatory; they can talk to us all they want. But until we as students want to change, we won’t. It’s not because the drinking age is 21, although it might have stemmed from that. It’s a cultural issue of our generation. Our music, our idols, everything we see is a party or getting wasted and hooking up with that guy, or not remembering what we did last night. We just brush it off, “Whatever, I’m ‘livin’ young and wild and free.’”
I know many people who struggle with binge drinking. It’s all fun and games until you wake up after having sex with that girl or after you’ve fallen down a staircase. Yeah, you just got laid, and yeah that fall must have been hilarious, but emotionally as well as physically, when will it catch up with you?
This idea of partying every night, not having a care in the world about what you do, is messed up. It’s so alluring, so welcoming—but it’s only temporary happiness.On Monday, you’ll wake up and realize you’re five assignments behind in class and on the verge of flunking.
Maybe this isn’t you. Maybe you’ve got great grades, a healthy lifestyle and still enjoy getting wasted on the weekends. Good for you. But are you prepared to drink appropriately at your work holiday party in front of all your coworkers and employers? That’ll never happen to you, right? What does going to a work party have to do with drinking in college?
In college, we learn about the world and who we are. We also learn habits and behaviors that will stick with us for the rest of our lives. If the only way you’ve ever had a drink is while playing beer pong, having too many shots of vodka and playing flip cup, how will you know how to drink in an adult social setting? Do we know how to enjoy a few beers at a bar and walk out of it vertically? I’m not trying to accuse our whole generation of being reckless drinkers, but the culture we are surrounded by is extremely conducive to this behavior.
I find that the only solution to this pandemic is learning in a safe and supportive environment how to drink. Choose Responsibility, an initiative started by former Middlebury College President John McCardell, seeks to promote the education of students 18-20 years of age regarding the responsibilities of drinking. The nonprofit organization is currently trying to amend legislation that takes 10 percent of federal funds used for highways away from a state if they lower their drinking age. This penalty has coerced states to steer clear of discussion regarding the drinking age because they don’t want to lose government money.
McCardell and his organization, however, believe it is crucial to bring attention to the fact that the current drinking age isn’t working. Mothers Against Drunk Driving disagrees, saying that drunk driving incidents have decreased since the 21 law was put in place. This is true, according to statistics. But the issue that I believe needs to be addressed is preventing the type of behavior that materializes in the act of binge drinking which can lead to poor decisions, including drunk driving.
Back when the drinking age was 18, students weren’t hushed up in their dorms trying to gulp down shot after shot because they wouldn’t be able to drink at the club or dinner. Students back then had a few casual beers with friends, went to dinner, had a glass or two there, and went out after that. This behavior supports learning how to drink. When you pound shots so fast, you don’t feel the effects until much later. But if you’re able to take your time in actually enjoying what you drink, the effects come on slowly and allow you to realize that you are getting drunk.
The solution to all this mess is to give students a drinking license. After a student receives his or her GED or high school diploma, he or she would be able to take a test on alcohol related information, and in passing the test, receive a license to drink. Severe consequences would be enforced if the driver drove drunk or bought alcohol for someone without a drinking license, as is the law now. Most importantly, I believe this would solve the counterargument regarding younger legal drinkers providing alcohol to high school students. The risk of 18-year-olds buying alcohol for high school students would be significantly lower because they would be out of high school. At this point in their lives, 18-year-olds go to college, join the work force and go to war. They should be able to have a simple glass of wine at dinner.
From 1996 to 2006 the highest number of drunk drivers appeared in the 25-34 age range. According to Dontdiedrunk.org, 13,470 alcohol related driving fatalities occurred in 2006 and even more occurred in 2005. Ten years earlier, in 1996, there were 13,451 alcohol related driving fatalities. Is that progress? The 21 law isn’t ideologically powerful enough to reach our generation. We have complete disregard for the law when it comes to drinking.
The issue is not whether or not someone is old enough to drink; it’s whether or not we as a generation are ready to take responsibility to learn how to drink. But we have to have the chance first, and we need the support to do so.