At the risk of sounding the like the “back in my day” guy….
Back in the 1980s when I was in college, people of my generation could drink legally. It was only 3.2 beer but that was enough. Now, we can debate the merits of the 18 versus 21 drinking age all we want but the truth is that college students living in a college town are going to drink.
The question is how do we react to it, manage it, try to prevent it or curb the clear consequences? That’s underlying the story that reporter Steve Young wrote for the Sunday paper.
I was student at USD and can attest to the atmosphere at the time. Drinking was a huge part of life there as one might imagine. Raising the drinking age changed that to the degree that there weren’t bars next to campus open to 18 year olds.
But did raising the drinking age change the overall culture of alcohol in Vermillion? Probably not as much as we think. Today there are large “house” parties, which inevitably get broken up by police. In those instances, the participants — often under the influence — try to flee and all sorts of bad things can and do happen.
Which is not to argue for a lowered drinking age or a return to the debauchery of early 80s. That would be stupid.
But we can’t ignore it either. What’s happening in Vermillion, where local authorities have established a pilot program to help those 18-21 year olds clear their records, is at least an effort to deal with the consequences.
I’m not sure what it’s like in the other college communities in South Dakota. I’m sure Brookings has all kinds of the same issues. But it’s probably not the same issue in the smaller schools, where the concentration of like-minded young adults is much less dense. Will this work and is there a lesson for other communities?