When I lived in Champaign, my husband and I walked around the college bar area checking out what it was like. There is something incredible about being over 25 and being on a college bar scene. It renders you completely invisible.
Drinking is part of the college scene and after finals, a lot of kids need and deserve to cut loose. Partying is fun. I did it.
But then someone dies and the reality of binge drinking at college comes crashing home. Twenty-three year-old Jonathan Morales fell from a balcony to his death during this years ‘Unofficial.’ It is the third student death related to the ‘Unofficial’ event. Morales is just one of an estimated 1825 college students to die of alcohol related causes this year.
What do we do? Ban drinking? Ban ‘Unofficial’? It wouldn’t stop it, it would just drive it under ground. Kids would still die, injuries and sexual abuse would probably go un-reported.
But we have to do something, right? Kids can’t go to college and keep dying this way.
1825 young people is far too high a number for us to feel comfortable with.
My friend Joe Schrank has a rather controversial suggestion and I have to say I think it’s worth considering. Prohibition isn’t the answer, instead, we have to accept that young people want to party we just want to lower the risk of them doing so. Schrank’s suggestion is to ban the sale of hard liquor on college campuses and only sell beer. Of course you can still get very drunk on beer, it’s just really hard to drink lots of it very quickly in the way you can with hard liquor. Second, he suggests the legalization of marijuana, as marijuana is very hard, if not impossible to overdose on.
Of course marijuana comes with risks, there are many mental health problems associated with using it. I don’t want my kids to use it. I don’t want my kids to use anything. But is that realistic? I hope they are going to college and I want them to have fun and I can also remember what it’s like to be young adult with all that freedom and no responsibility. Most of all I want them to be safe. I would at least like a discussion on what we could do to make kids safer when they party at college.
I know there is no perfect solution here. If marijuana is legalized then it is essential that the taxes from it are plowed into drug prevention and treatment. No substance is without risk.
Right now, I’m not seeing a lot of outrage to these events or to the amount of kids who die each year. I believe they are preventable. But right now these deaths are invisible.