The Elephant In The Room?


The wrongful death lawsuit, in which the University of Alabama is included as a defendant, involved a student who was an under-aged drinker.

In Alabama, as the University’s student alcohol policy states, “Individuals under 21 years of age are not permitted to consume alcohol.”

The University acknowledges that:

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism college students face dire consequences due to high alcohol consumption. These estimates include:1,825 traditional aged college students  (between the ages of 18 and 24) die each year due to alcohol-related injuries; 696,000 are assaulted by a peer who has been drinking; 97,000 students are victims of an alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape; 400,000 students had unprotected sex, and more than 100,000 students report to being too intoxicated to know if they consented to having sex, and more than 150,000 develop an alcohol-related health problem. (2009).

At the University of Alabama, the Greek community comprises over 34 percent of its student body. Approximately 10,000 of its students are Greek affiliated.  The Greek social life is clearly one where alcohol consumption is encouraged. ( Greek students during the 2013 election for the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education were even bribed with free booze for their votes. )

The University is surrounded by bars that cater to students and seventy-four percent of its students live off-campus. Stores that sell alcohol also ring the campus.

The elephant in the room at the University is that, like other schools that have an active social life, the consumption of alcohol by minors is rampant.

Although the University is well aware of the harm that alcohol can cause, how could it humanly possible enforce the law? It is true that University Police give tickets for traffic infractions. But the minute that police were to show up at a bar or fraternity house to monitor under-aged drinking then the Board of Trustees would probably have hell to pay.

There’s a jurisdictional issue of course. The Alabama Beverage Control Board was tasked with the inspections of bars, but the task has overwhelmed its manpower resources. The Greek mansions at the University are on property rented to the Greek organizations at a nominal cost. It might be assumed that the University Police could be brought in if there was a legitimate role for them in enforcement of alcohol laws.

The fact that under-aged drinking by University students goes on in incontestable.  Such drinking is illegal. The reputation that the University of Alabama has as a “party school” may not deserved. But in any neighborhood near Bryant Denny Stadium on a football weekend there is the redolent odor of booze floating through the air.

If the University of Alabama could somehow enforce its student policy on under-aged drinking would it be as an attractive school to those students who have a way of life in which alcohol consumption plays an important role?

For that matter, Tuscaloosa’s economy is to some extent supported by the distribution and consumption of alcohol. The student population comprises a significant part of the number of residents in Tuscaloosa. Most of the students who attend the University are younger than twenty-one years old.

Many Tuscaloosa residents at least were thankful that in the last school board election the “booze for votes” situation was not reprised. But, among both students and residents, there is a great concern about the consequences of alcohol use, particularly when date rape may be a consequence.










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