Let’s face it. Alcohol is an integral part of many students’ social lives on campus. It dominates our weekend conversations, dictates which parties we go to and is one of the main perceived advantages that upperclassmen who are 21 have over everyone else.
Recently, The Crimson has published several opinions that seem to support lowering the drinking age to 18. They have demonized Greek life and final clubs for their exclusivity in order to pressure our administration into condoning illegal drinking. Their arguments include explanations of how lowering the drinking age would diminish the rebellious aura of drinking and that freshman would be magically allowed into overflowing parties just because they would be legal. These arguments are blissfully ignorant of the realities of our campus and if the drinking age was lowered to 18, it would only cause the student body to drink more dangerously.
Take a moment and think about the people you know who drink. We all know several people that absolutely need to pregame before going to a party. They obsess over it and refuse to go out unless they have had several shots. They have such an irrational fear of going to a party sober that they would rather not go out at all than leave their rooms with a .00 blood alcohol content, and when the pregaming is through, they are always at least four shots ahead of you. Many of these people find themselves in University Health Services with some regularity.
How did our friends get this way? Haven’t you noticed that most of them didn’t drink in high school, but at college they suddenly need alcohol to function socially even though they are so inexperienced that they either don’t know their own limits or intentionally drink past them? These students clearly can’t control themselves, so why would these people drink less if alcohol became more available to them? Alcohol has become their social catalyst. Their drinking habits are not an attempt to act cool or rebellious. They are just trying to feel less awkward and they believe that alcohol is the only solution to their problem. Their behavior can’t be solved with learned, responsible drinking since these people only feel comfortable when they are dangerously drunk so lowering the drinking age would do nothing but enable them to drink more.
As I’ve already hinted, one argument for lowering the drinking age is that, with accessibility to alcohol in bars and clubs, underage students would stop dangerously pregaming in their rooms. This argument makes the large assumption that students have a large amount of money to spend on alcohol. If you and a group of friends wanted to drink and were on a college budget, would you go to a bar that has $7+ drinks or go buy $15 handle of cheap vodka and a two-liter Diet Coke, which is more than capable of getting a small group of people extremely drunk?
Of course the counter-argument to this is that people can just drink at the parties instead of pregaming, but where are these parties? Every weekend droves of people travel from overflowing party to overflowing party trying to find something good and either give up or clog a party so much that it gets shut down. Shouldn’t some of these roving students be throwing their own events? This brings us to another cultural problem here, the average student’s sense of “privilege”. Many have complained about the exclusivity of final clubs and frat parties but frankly, these organizations have every right to be exclusive. If an organization pays for the booze and the space and puts the effort into throwing a party, it has every right to decide who it lets in and who it doesn’t.
Most students don’t want to take the time to throw their own parties, so they demand that student groups and the Harvard administration provide the parties for them. How much should we expect the administration to bend over backward for our social wants? Even with available space, many students are just unwilling to put the time and money into hosting a fun event. So how would lowering the drinking age fix this? Answer: It won’t. Lowering the drinking age won’t encourage anyone to throw safer drinking parties. Thus, the end result of lowering the drinking age would not be more and safer parties that would stop students from pregaming, but more reckless pregaming, more broken UHS records and the very real and increased chance that one of your friends could die.
We want to lower the drinking age in the name of fun but is it really worth it when that freshman who passes out in your House’s garbage room or on the steps of Lamont doesn’t wake up again? Is that a price we are willing to pay just so that we can’t remember what we did last night?
Christian A. Rivera ’13 is a music concentrator living in Currier House
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