Archive for February, 2010

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Good news! Our idea on Change.org took 3rd place in its category, and has advanced to the final round of voting, which begins at 1 PM EST on Monday, March 1 and will conclude at the end of the week. Vote totals will be reset to zero across the board when the contest opens again on Monday, so we will have a level playing field for competition. Before you prepare to cast your vote early next week, check out these headlines:

Stories this week:

Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post examined recent changes in parental notification rules for underage alcohol violations at colleges at universities across the country. Jameson wrote, “Schools have found themselves in a delicate balancing act. Officials want to protect students’ heath and honor parents’ demands for information, but they also want to help students develop a sense of independence.” What do you think is the appropriate policy?

Two Dallas Morning News articles caught our eye this week. The first came from local high school student Kelsey McKinney, who took a snapshot of the toxic drinking culture in her area and concluded that a lower drinking age is necessary. The second was a roundtable discussion involving the members of the Morning News editorial board, who debated this week’s Washington Post parental notification story. Debate moderator and Assistant Editorial Page Editor Nicole Stockdale argued for a lower drinking age: “My first problem is that the drinking age should already be 18. Treat adults like adults.”

In case you missed it earlier this week, check out the Associated Press report on a disturbing trend at Midwestern colleges: drinkers create “shot books” to commemorate their 21st birthdays, with one shot for each year represented.

In other news…

Legislators in Utah are considering a partial medical amnesty bill for underage drinkers who seek emergency assistance for intoxicated friends. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the bill is intended to prevent situations similar to the one in which Utah State University first-year Michael Starks passed away after a night of heavy drinking in 2009.

A panel of student affairs administrators at New Hampshire universities discussed the issue of underage drinking in higher education on New Hampshire Public Radio. You can listen to the conversation here.

BC Heights columnist Joseph Pasquinelli took on the issue of the drinking age again this week. He wrote, “The current drinking age makes using alcohol illegal for most college-age students, but this does not stop them. It will only make their behavior more secretive and irresponsible. In order to foster an environment where this ‘experimenting’ can be done responsibly and treated as an opportunity to learn how to drink like an adult, the drinking age needs to be lowered to at most 18.”

Leave us a news tip in the comments if you found an interesting item that we missed, and please remember to cast your votes for our Change.org idea on Monday afternoon!

AP: “Shot Books” Mark 21st Birthdays

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Alan Schier Zagier filed an Associated Press report this morning on a new trend among Midwestern colleges and universities: women are using “shot books” to commemorate their 21st birthdays, with one shot for every year represented. A professor of psychology at the University of Missouri called these books “a real tradition”:

“Shot books are made by and for women almost exclusively, especially in sororities, according to Sher and other experts. The keepsakes come bedecked with photos, drink names, bar locales and progressively sloppier signatures – visual reminders of a night of excess few could recall on their own.”

Check out the report in the Washington Post for more details. Alcohol-related deaths among U.S. college students are rising, and it’s clear that this ritual poses a threat to the health and safety of young adults. So we’d like to hear from you: are these shot books popular on your campus or in your community? Let us know in the comments.

Dallas Morning News “Student Voices”: Lower the Drinking Age

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Kelsey McKinney, a Dallas-area high school senior and “Student Voices” columnist for the Dallas Morning News, has seen the unintended consequences of Legal Age 21 firsthand. In her Sunday column, she proposed a potential solution to the problem of toxic drinking that she has witnessed among her peers: lower the drinking age.

McKinney spared few details in her column, and she cast the reality of alcohol in blunt terms:

“The current drinking age is not stopping underage drinking; it is simply causing it to become more secretive.

In that secret lies danger. Students treat drinking as a recreational activity instead of giving it the respect it deserves. Because they are unable to drink out in the open, they find ways to do it illegally – be that at parties or with fake identification.

Today’s young people, as a result of their underground drinking habits, have no idea how to consume alcohol with tolerance or wisdom. They have been taught to down as many drinks as they can in as short amount of time as possible.”

Check out the rest of her column and let us know what you think in the comments.

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Our Change.org campaign is going strong, and if you haven’t cast your vote yet, there’s still time: first-round voting has been extended to February 25th, so help us make the final push to crack the Top 10 Ideas for Change in America! When you’re finished casting your vote, catch up on these headlines from around the country.

Stories this week:

Malcolm Gladwell published a long piece on the sociology of alcohol and cultural contexts in the latest issue of The New Yorker (subscription required). He found our society’s unwillingness to engage in realistic alcohol education problematic. In the conclusion, he wrote:

“There is something about the cultural dimension of social problems that eludes us. When confronted with the rowdy youth in the bar, we are happy to raise his drinking age, to tax his beer, to punish him if he drives under the influence, and to push him into treatment if his habit becomes an addiction. But we are reluctant to provide him with a positive and constructive example of how to drink. The consequences of the failure are considerable, because, in the end, culture is a more powerful tool in dealing with drinking than medicine, economics, or the law.”

Alyssa Rosenberg concurred with Gladwell’s observation in a follow-up post at The Atlantic on Thursday, and connected his points to the problem of our inconsistent age of majority:

“Drinking is supposed to be one of the signifiers of adulthood, it’s one of the legal demarcations of full majority.  Even if almost everyone drinks before they’re legally 21, I tend to think having truly figured out drinking is one of the demarcations of being grown up.  And yet unlike voting, where you can register, and think about who you support, and march off to the voting booth, or driving, where you’re licensed by the state, there’s rarely a threshold act or a genuine training process for learning how to drink.”

What are your thoughts on this article? Let us know in the comments.

Administrators at Yale have noticed a spike in alcohol-related hospital admissions this year, and an investigation into those problems led two Yale Daily News reporters to ask, “Does Yale Have a Drinking Problem?

In other news…

Two articles in The Heights at Boston College caught our attention this week. Special Project Editor Ana Lopez surveyed the history of the college’s alcohol policies, noting that after Legal Age 21 took hold, the college experienced some new problems: “BC’s effective dry status pushed hundreds of students into surrounding neighborhoods on weekend nights. The presence of rambunctious, and now underage, coeds in the neighborhoods began to strain the community’s already precarious relations with the University.” Later in the week, columnist Joseph Pasquinelli indicated that these types of problems persist on campus today.

Student health professionals at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse have created a YouTube contest to encourage responsible drinking on campus. Check out The Racquet for more details about how this contest will fit into the larger anti-binge drinking initiative at La Crosse.

Did we miss something this week? Leave us a news tip in the comments.

BC Heights: “On the Culture of Drink”

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

BC Heights columnist Joseph Pasquinelli took a hard look at the culture of toxic drinking at Boston College today, when he wrote that Legal Age 21 has contributed to a culture that “is not safe, responsible, or mature.” He observed how “weekend warriors are sent to the infirmary with alcohol poisoning. Others are ripping one too many shots and shot-gunning one too many beers. This usually results in our warrior, bent over a toilet or doing something he or she will regret.”

His answer to this persistent problem is fairly simple: change the drinking age. “If drinking were not illegal or a violation of policy for those under 21, there would be less instances of students becoming sick and behaving irresponsibly while under the influence. If drinking were legal, we could teach people from a younger age how to drink in a manner that is safe and mature…getting slammed out of one’s mind loses its appeal when it is not against policy to have a drink or two to end the day.”

He concludes his column with a call to action for students that implores them to take matters into their own hands by encouraging responsible behavior. Check out the rest of the column and let us know what you think in the comments.

Yale Daily News: Binge Drinking on the Rise at Yale

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Yale Daily News reporters Greta Stetson and Colin Ross tried to answer a simple question in today’s article, “Does Yale Have a Drinking Problem?” Their research indicates that the campus has experienced a spike in binge drinking this year, including a “record number of alcohol-related hospitalizations.”

Yale Police Chief James Perrotti told the Daily News reporters that Yale is not unique in this regard – “his counterparts at other schools have told him they are experiencing similar problems,” which we’ve seen in recent months at the University of Iowa and Penn State.

Check out today’s article and let us know what you think in the comments.

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Our campaign on Change.org’s Ideas for Change in America is going strong: after a wave of voting this week, our proposal to change the drinking age is now in great shape to take over 2nd place in the Human Rights category and advance to the next round. Have you voted yet? If not, the first round ends next Thursday, so vote today! Once you’ve cast your vote, spread the word on Twitter and Facebook. Check out this week’s headlines for news of a ballot initiative in Washington, a new alcohol use survey in Nebraska, and the view from the back door of the [CR] office after all of this week’s snow…

The view from [CR]’s back door this week. Anyone have a shovel?

Stories this week:

If you missed it yesterday, the Yakima Herald-Republic tracked down a Washington State University student who has created a ballot initiative to lower the state’s drinking age to 19. Cienna Madrid of The Stranger picked up the news and interviewed him to get his take on the issue of binge drinking by young adults.

Nora Leinen, a columnist with the Minnesota Daily, implored local lawmakers to think about the consequences of proposed social host laws before passing them:

“One of the main reasons Minneapolis is pushing the initiative is the large influx of parties it received after St. Paul passed a social host ordinance: a prime example of how underage drinking is simply shifted by restrictive laws, not stopped.

So if the social host ordinance is passed, what will really happen? People may card at house parties and Minneapolis may be praised for taking a stand, but underage drinkers will find another way to continue to drink.

What worries me is the stubbornness of government officials to realize that their methods of restrictive laws aren’t working.”

What’s your take on her column? Let us know in the comments.

The editors of the ASU Herald at Arizona State University offered some advice to students who are concerned about changes in university alcohol policy: drink responsibly, and watch out for one another.

In other news…

Froma Harrop of the Providence Journal discussed the problems that arise when the age of majority is inconsistent. She argued that the Amethyst Initiative’s signatories might have some good solutions to the problem of toxic drinking: “They note that the age restriction hasn’t stopped binge drinking on campus and argue, not without reason, that it has turned alcohol into forbidden fruit begging to be picked. Perhaps teaching young adults how to drink in moderation is the better way to go.”

Nebraska has created a wide-ranging, anonymous survey that will attempt to examine young adults’ attitudes about alcohol and their drinking patterns. Dr. JoAnn Schaffer of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services told WOWT-TV that the survey intends to get to the heart of the culture of toxic drinking: “What does drinking responsibly mean? We spend a lot of time telling people to do that but we don’t give them any guidance on what that means.”

Did we miss something this week? Leave a link in the comments.

Our campaign on Change.org’s Ideas for Change in America is going strong: after a wave of voting this week, our proposal to change the drinking age is now in great shape to take over 2nd place in the Human Rights category and advance to the next round. Have you voted yet? If not, the first round ends next Thursday, so vote today! Check out this week’s headlines for news of a ballot initiative in Washington, a new alcohol use survey in Nebraska, and the view from the back door of the [CR] office after all of this week’s snow…

Stories this week:

If you missed it yesterday, the Yakima Herald-Republic tracked down a Washington State University student who has created a ballot initiative to lower the state’s drinking age to 19. Cienna Madrid of The Stranger picked up the news and interviewed him to get his take on the issue of binge drinking by young adults.

Nora Leinen, a columnist with the Minnesota Daily, implored local lawmakers to think about the consequences of proposed social host laws before passing them:

“One of the main reasons Minneapolis is pushing the initiative is the large influx of parties it received after St. Paul passed a social host ordinance: a prime example of how underage drinking is simply shifted by restrictive laws, not stopped.

So if the social host ordinance is passed, what will really happen? People may card at house parties and Minneapolis may be praised for taking a stand, but underage drinkers will find another way to continue to

drink.

What worries me is the stubbornness of government officials to realize that their methods of restrictive laws aren’t working.”

What’s your take on her column? Let us know in the comments.

The editors of the ASU Herald at Arizona State University offered some advice to students who are concerned about changes in university alcohol policy: drink responsibly, and watch out for one another.

In other news…

In a column for RealClearPolitics.com. Froma Harrop discussed the problems that arise when the age of majority is unclear. She mentioned the Amethyst Initiative’s signatories and the drinking age, writing, “They note that the age restriction hasn’t stopped binge drinking on campus and argue, not without reason, that it has turned alcohol into forbidden fruit begging to be picked. Perhaps teaching young adults how to drink in moderation is the better way to go.

Nebraska has created a wide-ranging, anonymous survey that will attempt to examine young adults’ attitudes about alcohol and their drinking patterns. Dr. JoAnn Schaffer of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services told WOWT-TV that the survey intends to get to the heart of the culture of toxic drinking: “What does drinking responsibly mean? We spend a lot of time telling people to do that but we don’t give them any guidance on what that means.”

Did we miss something this week? Leave a link in the comments.

Ballot Initiative to Lower the Drinking Age in Washington

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Dustin Reischman, a student at Washington State University, has launched a ballot initiative to lower the drinking age in his state from 21 to 19. He told Leah Ward of the Yakima Herald-Republic that he thinks Legal Age 21 is not working very well: “It seems like the way we are addressing the alcohol culture, trying to push it under the rug, is actually creating more problems…my hope is that people become more responsible with their alcohol consumption,” he said.

To earn a place on the November ballot, Reischman and his supporters will need to gather approximately 300,000 signatures by July 2. Check out The Stranger for more information on the initiative, and leave your thoughts in the comments.

Richmond Times-Dispatch on Alcohol Notification Policies

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

On Monday, Karin Kapsidelis explored the issue of parental notification for alcohol violations at Virginia colleges for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. She noted that Virginia Tech recently made a change to its policy, which now mandates that parents be informed of all on-campus alcohol violations. Edward Spencer, Virginia Tech’s Vice President for Student Affairs, said the policy is designed to prevent the problems associated with toxic alcohol consumption:

“It’s a problem he links to the ‘alcohol culture’ created on campus after the legal drinking age was increased to 21 by Congress in 1984 in a law that tied highway funding to compliance. Virginia, which had been gradually raising the drinking age, complied by 1987.

Spencer recalls his own undergraduate days in the 1960s when his fraternity at the University of Rochester would have wine socials with deans and vice presidents. ‘We had a great time together, and nobody got drunk,’ he said.

But getting drunk is the point of drinking on college campuses now, Spencer said. Each Monday, he gets a report of weekend incidents on campus that usually includes two to five cases of students passed out drunk in residence-hall bathrooms — which would be a major offense.”

Kapsidelis pointed out that many colleges have had to adjust their parental notification policies as a result of the disconnect between Legal Age 21 and the age of majority: “At issue for the universities is whether to view students as full-fledged adults who are accountable for their actions, or recognize they’re in a somewhat awkward, in-between age with many gray areas about their status.”

What’s your take on these policies? Let us know in the comments.

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Right now, [CR]’s Idea for Change in America is in 3rd place in the Human Rights category of Change.org’s 2nd-annual contest. If you can help keep us in 3rd place between now and February 18th, we’ll advance to the next round where our proposal will become part of the group of the 60 most popular ideas. Have you voted yet? If not, visit our idea page to lend your support to [CR], and then check out the rest of this week’s headlines.

Stories this week:

South Dakota State Rep. Tim Rounds has introduced his bill to create a special class of licensed establishments for 19-20 year-olds. David Montgomery’s report in the Capital Journal lays out all of the details. One former state’s attorney offered qualified support for the bill, saying, “If we’re not going to lose our funding, I support it…all (current law) does is put kids in the car, and there’s a lot of violence that occurs in these parties outside of town.”

Hanover, New Hampshire’s proximity to Vermont made The Dartmouth staff writer Emily Fletcher curious about [CR]’s recent efforts in her neighboring state. This week, she wrote about the January 21 House Committee hearing, and spoke to two Vermont state legislators about the conversation developing in the legislature. Rep. Margaret Cheney of Windsor said, “A lot of us feel that the current drinking age causes problems of its own, not the least of which is binge drinking.”

Marcus Garner of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported on the recent death of Kennesaw State University student Dorian Varcianna, which investigators believe may have been the result of alcohol poisoning at an off-campus fraternity party.

In other news…

Students and staff recently came together for a meeting to discuss campus-wide alcohol policies at the University of Missouri. The President of the University’s Student Association noted that there is a gap between official policies and the realities of alcohol at Missouri: “Right now, we have what many consider a dry campus. I think that is obviously not true, from my past experience and I think I can say that a lot of people feel the same way.”

The Wisconsin legislature is currently considering a proposal that would add private colleges and universities to the list of places exempt from a law that prohibits the owner of a public place from allowing the consumption of alcohol unless the owner has a permit. Matthew Defour of the Wisconsin State Journal covered the pros and cons of the proposal earlier this week – let us know what you think.

Did we miss something in this week’s update? Send us your news tips in the comments.