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Underage Drinking Tragedy

The legal drinking age has actually fluctuated from time to time. Prior to Prohibition, there was really no age listed in any of the states – a chart listing the history per state has only question marks in that column. After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the majority of states listed 21 as their legal drinking age, but some had it as low as 18 or 19. In the 1970’s most states lowered the drinking age to 18 or 19. The thought at the time was that if young men were old enough to be sent to war or to get married and be considered an adult in every other sense of the word, then they ought not to be forbidden to drink liquor as well. Then in the 80’s and in our state in particular 1989, the legal age was raised back up to age 21. Part of the thinking then was that people wanted to keep the alcohol out of the high schools and also out of the first few years at a university or a college. Unfortunately, the theory didn’t work.

All this to say that there are still problems with underage drinking on campuses across the nation. This August 2012 started us off with two fraternities at the University of Idaho being charged with providing alcohol to students who were minors. Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Beta Theta Pi had parties that were attended by freshman sorority members. 18-year-old Rejena Coghlan from Spokane, Washington consumed enough alcohol to have a blood-alcohol level of .25 percent and then fell three stories down from the fire escape at the Alpha Phi sorority house. She is now paralyzed from the waist down.

The Beta Theta Pi party had a theme going that night entitled, “50 Ways To Lose Your Liver.” Very funny, guys. The Alpha Epsilon party’s theme was “Jack Daniels’ Birthday.” Both parties had liquor running freely without much concern for who was imbibing.

The fraternities were charged rather than the individuals, so it is unlikely that anyone will be personally fined or imprisoned. Instead, the school has withdrawn recognition of the fraternities and criticized them for serving alcohol to minor and not checking identification and serving “bulk” alcohol.

But one might ask the question: what if the girl who fell and was paralyzed for life had been 21 years old? Would it have been any less tragic that this would happen on a University campus? Or would it just be a sad story that seems to be “par for the course” because our colleges are not able to find a way to actually rid their premises of liquor?


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