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The Dangerous Cocktail of Underage Drinking

Wednesday, September 30, 2015  
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Steve Kohrman-Chairman, Indiana Association of Beverage RetailersMessage from the IABR Chairman Steve Kohrman The news that college students, underage and otherwise, are arrested for drinking is a passing headline these days. But when it happens in the Big Ten and for a high-profile team plagued by similar issues, it’s entirely another matter. So here we are again at the juncture of what’s right and wrong when it comes to alcohol and those who are making bad decisions using it.


Not surprisingly, I.U. has had a history of event-inspired excesses with underage drinking: Little 500, Homecoming, tailgate parties and move-in weekends. Just check out the Indiana State Police Excise online news release archive and look at the numbers. On move-in weekend alone this August when students returned to campus, 258 citations were issued and two dozen people jailed for alcohol-related incidents.


So here’s something to think about as you monitor the outcomes of what could have been a fatal accident of a young student in Bloomington — and is now the target of considerable media scrutiny and policy debate. Alcohol isn’t easily purchased by minors even with fake IDs. In many instances, older students of legal age are making the buys legally and providing to minors illegally.


Parents are often providing the advice that it’s better to be safe and drink at a party, fraternity house, or place where you know people who may also know you. In other words, stay put when you indulge. If this logic were sound, there wouldn’t be a need for Lifeline law in Indiana or a social host law holding adults responsible for these poor decisions. At the same time, you have students serving students at places like grocery stores.


Even though ID checks should be in place with older clerks called to verify age, everyone can share a story where it hasn’t happened, including at self-serve checkout counters. While no one ever wants to talk about sensible alcohol regulation, it’s getting some chatter now. A recent check of sports media on the subject, now that we’re on a fourth alcohol-related incident and nearly fatal incident at I.U., brought out a fairly strong response from most.


Here’s just a sample in the last few days.

Dan Dakich: “Don't tell me boys will be boys. That's crap.”

Gregg Doyel: “So be smart, young men. Be careful. Or the next knucklehead decision one of you makes— I'm talking alcohol-related stuff, at a minimum — should result in the removal of your coach. Because this stuff can't keep happening. Four alcohol-related incidents in nine months? Can't keep happening. Not at Indiana. Not anywhere.”

Kent Sterling: “If I’m the father of a recruit interested in playing basketball at Indiana, the Hoosiers are coming off that list because of the pattern of misbehavior over the past nine months— and who knows how long before that.”

Bob Kravitz: “It seems to me the only thing that works with kids — and I speak from personal experience here — is to bring the hammer down.”


Now, what will IU do? Always a party school and always a school where alcohol excess has ruled, even dating back to the 1970s when students could be found passed out and face down in the lawns along Third Street, is anyone’s guess. Let’s just hope some sensible and sound policies result.

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