Sheltering students isn't the answer.
Most parents would do anything to protect their children.
But what about when they're not children anymore? At what age - as tough as it might be - do parents let their offspring go off into the world and hope they've done their best to teach good judgment and values?
At UW-Stevens Point, there is a proposal to ban alcohol in all student dormitories, even those where the occupants have reached the legal drinking age of 21. The idea is in part a reaction to the March death of a student found in the Wisconsin River three days after he went missing while celebrating his 21st birthday.
Banning alcohol on campus and turning legal-age students into lawbreakers isn't fair to the vast majority of these young adults mature enough to partake without risking their lives. Prohibition didn't work 90 years ago, and campuses need not try to revive it.
Joan Thomas, UW-Stout dean of students, summarized that university's wise approach: "We're not focusing on prohibition; we're focusing on behavior and high-risk use of alcohol."
UW-Stout experienced a series of student deaths in which alcohol played a factor. In response, it toughened its rules on students who abuse alcohol. One of the ideas aimed at part of the problem was scheduling more classes on Fridays to try to curb the Thursday "party night" drinking.
Most people with jobs can't go out regularly to get drunk and continue to stay employed. The purpose of more Friday classes is to have college students also be held accountable if they chronically miss class. One would think with the cost of college going up as it is that students wouldn't need such motivation to get the most out of their investment.
University officials aren't surrogate mommies and daddies, and they shouldn't be. Sure, going off to college can be challenging, lonely and confusing, but so is going into the military or starting that first job. You can find myriad excuses to get drunk, but it doesn't take long to realize there are no answers inside that bottle.
Most college students come to realize that drinking too much too often doesn't make you happy, healthy or successful. Campuses can only do so much. UW-Stout, for example, requires students to take a self survey of their drinking habits, notifies parents when underage students are caught drinking on campus, and has a marketing campaign promoting healthy behavior.
University officials have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to protect their students. They are not expected to throw a cocoon around students to control their every move and decision.
Nobody can make you drink if you don't want to. Nobody can or should try to force you to drink to excess on your 21st birthday or any other day. If they do, you alone have the final say about what enters your body.
Making campuses "dry" would simply turn adult students against campus police in a silly game of "catch me if you can" that punishes the majority for the unwise actions of a relatively small group of students.
- Don Huebscher, editor
2012 the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wis.)
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