It wasn’t the pizza that made Naples a staple of Yale life. Yalies went to Naples because it was a great place to get a beer with no questions asked. Not surprisingly, that was same reason that the Department of Consumer Protection’s Liquor Control Commission decided to revoke the liquor license of Yale’s favorite watering hole.
Laws must be enforced; it is not our place to argue otherwise. Yet the demise of Naples is lamentable, not only because of the inconvenience it poses to thousands of students, but because it was the victim of the ill-conceived statute that raised the drinking age to 21.
Our society affords 18 year-olds virtually all the rights and responsibilities of adults, from joining the military to purchasing firearms. By the time a person is 19, he or she usually both no longer attends high school and is treated as an adult by the law in virtually all respects. For these reasons, 19 — the minimum purchasing age in many Canadian provinces — would be a far more logical age than either 18 or 21.
The most persuasive argument against lowering the drinking age is that a higher drinking age reduces drunk driving fatalities. Statistics have shown that highway fatalities have in fact decreased since the minimum purchase age increases of 1980’s, at least in part because of the increased drinking age. Reducing the proportion of the population with legal access to alcohol will always improve highway safety.
Of course, drinking and driving always has been and always should be illegal. But rather than constantly increasing the drinking age to make highways safer, our society has chosen to allow responsible adults to make their own choices about consuming alcohol.
Furthermore, underage students at Yale and other universities will always be able to obtain alcohol when surrounded by peers who can legally purchase it. While these students will always be able to obtain alcohol, keeping alcohol illegal for them presents serious problems.
First, sociologists have proven –with corroborating statistical evidence — that students who consume alcohol illegally are more prone to binge drinking. A group of four friends sharing a pitcher of Budweiser over pizza is safer than that same group playing drinking games at a fraternity. The “party” culture at a restaurant like Naples resembles normal adult life moreso than the binge drinking culture prevalent at many colleges that adhere to strict drinking regulations.
More troubling — although thankfully less relevant to Yale — are the dangers underage drinkers face when excessive drinking prompts medical attention. Disciplinarian tactics at other universities punish underage students simply for seeking help, creating scenarios where students dangerously forego medical attention merely to avoid punishment. The Yale administration deserves resounding praise for allowing students to go to Undergraduate Health Services under any circumstances without fear of disciplinary action. This policy rightfully puts the health concerns of Yale students first, and should serve as a model to other Universities in making their own alcohol policies.
Yale tacitly acknowledges that penalizing collegiate drinkers is apt to do more harm than good. It is time for the federal governement to come to the same realization, and reflect it in law.