Colleges nationwide argue to re-open debate on drinking age
A recent movement was unleashed calling for a change of the current legal drinking age.
In late August, the Amethyst Initiative came onto the scene, petitioning for debate on the reevaluation of the national drinking age. According to its Web site, www.amethystinitiative.org, there are 130 college presidents across the U.S. who support the petition, including signatures from the presidents of Lewis & Clark University and Willamette University. It is important to note that these signatures do not necessarily represent the view of the entire institution. So where exactly does Linfield fall on the matter?
“I think it is probably unwise for Linfield to take a position on the matter,” Hansen said. “I think we would have an interesting debate on our own campus.”
No doubt it would be a debate covering issues of health and the social risks of lowering the age to 18.
“I think for a lot of people they are looking at it from the perspective that most people move out at 18,” junior Alethea Samerotte said. “That’s kind of when you are an adult, so why not be able to make your own choices?”
Janet Jones, head of the Yamhill County Prevention Program, said she believes the drinking age of 21 is fine where it is.
“Lowering the drinking age is not defensible,” Jones said. “We don’t teach those who are of age to drink responsibly.”
The Amethyst Initiative cites the incidence of binge drinking among underage students as one of the key reasons why there needs to be a reevaluation of the law.
Hansen said surveys suggest that Linfield is in the middle range of schools that experience binge drinking and that there are harmful effects on the students who do decide to binge drink.
“We have considerable data that shows students who binge drink have more academic difficulty, more physical difficulty and they encounter behavioral issues at greater rates than others,” Hansen said.
Jones said it doesn’t matter what the age is because students who are 21 still binge drink because it is legal.
Students across the country fight for smoke-free campuses
Age defines countless aspects of the American culture. At 16, we have the freedom to drive, at 18 the right to smoke, at 21 the right to consume alcohol.
Across the nation the problems of tobacco use and alcohol consumption have been at the center of college movements. Riddled in debate and controversy, these issues are fueling student and administration discussion, and there are no signs that it will slow down anytime soon.
While these issues may not be making big headlines at Linfield, discussions are happening surrounding the smoking and drinking habits of our students. For example, at Wednesday’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Prevention Team (ADAPT) meeting, colleges focused on the effects of secondhand smoke and colleges moving toward a smoke-free campus.
Particularly in regards to smoking, junior Alethea Samerotte said she did not realize smoking on campus was a big deal.
“I see a few people on campus [smoking], but I didn’t realize it was that bad,” Samerotte said.
According to the American Lung Association of Oregon, 24 states have colleges with smoke-free campuses, including five colleges and universities in Oregon.
Last year, a survey distributed to Linfield students and faculty found that 38 percent of the Linfield community would support a smoke-free campus, 27.9 percent would somewhat support it, 16.9 percent oppose the idea and 17.1 percent highly oppose the ban.
Anonymous comments made during the survey said that some opponents of the idea threatened to transfer schools if it became a reality.
Samerotte said during ADAPT a speaker said one-third of the students on campus have lung problems that are set off by cigarette smoke.
“It doesn’t really affect me now, but if they were to ban it, I think we would be better off,” she said.
Dean of Students Dave Hansen said while most Linfield students do not smoke, they more often than not support the rights of smokers.
“The way I read the current student reaction is that they are much more forgiving of allowing a person to smoke as long as the secondhand effects don’t spill over.” Hansen said.
Linfield’s current policy states smoking must take place 30 feet away from all buildings.
“I don’t see that ban as likely to occur in the very short term,” Hansen said.