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Newsletter > April 2000 > "DID M.A.D.D.’S LOBBYING ENCOURAGE BINGE DRINKING?"
DID M.A.D.D.’S LOBBYING ENCOURAGE BINGE DRINKING?
Robert E. Manley, Manley & Burke
According to a survey by the Harvard School of Public Health 50% of male and 39% of female students surveyed reported that they had engaged in binge drinking within the preceding two weeks. About 30% reported engaging in unplanned sexual activity as a consequence of their drinking.
The survey prompted the writer, Jack Hitt, to publish an essay in The New York Times magazine of 24 October 1999 entitled “The Battle of the Binge.”
His argument is that binge drinking increased after the Mothers Against Drunk Driving lobbied through Congress a law to require that all states raise the drinking age to 21. He likens it to a restoration of prohibition for undergraduates.
Some of us are old enough to remember multi-generational parties when we could observe people who reached maturity in the 1920s. Typically, they either did not drink or those who drank seemed to have more difficulty holding their liquor than either younger or older generations. For some reason, having reached maturity in the period of prohibition developed lifelong habits of alcohol misuse in a large percentage of the population that went through young adulthood during prohibition.
Mr. Hitt asserts that the current nationwide laws on the age of alcohol consumption revive prohibition for undergraduates. He suggests that the legal prohibition on alcohol for people under 2 l is preventing them from learning how to drink responsibly and fostering the practice of binge drinking.
Citing Ohio University’s policy, he notes that 7% of the 16,000 student body was disciplined for alcohol abuse last year. He also reports that notwithstanding the University’s aggressive anti-alcohol position, binge drinking is at 60% on the Ohio University campus.
Mr. Hitt makes good points, but the proper audience is Congress and the state legislatures. People who are responsible for the management of fraternities and the management of university student personnel policies have no choice but to obey the law. The fact that the law makes it difficult for university role models to teach undergraduates how to handle alcohol in a responsible manner is beyond the control of the managers of fraternities or the administrators of universities.
BEWARE OF E-MAIL
E-mail is convenient. It is fast. It is efficient. It is also dangerous.
Because of the ease of sending e-mail, people frequently write and dispatch messages without much thought. The university official, fraternity officer, or field representative of the fraternity should consider whether to make detailed reports on recent incidents by e-mail. E-mail messages are likely to be written in haste. When one writes in haste, one often says careless things.
A year or two later when that e-mail author is deposed in a lawsuit, the e-mail messages will be analyzed in a microscopic manner. A hasty statement, an unfounded conclusion, or a rash judgment will be blown way out of proportion and perhaps damage innocent people or organizations.
Anytime anyone is dealing with a crisis or risk prevention, it is probably wise to avoid hasty e-mails.
STUDENT FEES UPHELD
On March 22, 2000, the United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the University of Wisconsin does not violate the First Amendment rights of students when it uses their mandatory-fee payments to finance campus groups that they oppose. The Supreme Court ruling overturned a 1998 decision which struck down the University’s fee policy as unconstitutional. While the Supreme Court generally upheld the University’s right to collect student fees to support student groups, the case was returned to a lower court to review more fully one of the methods used by the Wisconsin student government to decide which groups are to receive funds. The case is captioned Board of Regents of the Univ. of Wisconsin Sys. v. Southworth, 2000 U.S. LEXIS 2196.