After accident, students weigh in on alcohol

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McCrae Williams, a 19-year-old freshman lacrosse player at nearby Lafayette College, will never be remembered for the amount of saves he made in goal or the degree he earned. The Weston, Mass. native will instead be known in the community as the kid who lost his life just three weeks into his college career. Williams died of a head injury at Lehigh Valley Hospital on Sept. 11 after being found unconscious outside his dorm by campus police responding to a medical call for a student who had been drinking. Officially, he died from blunt force trauma, but the untold truth that everyone is afraid to face is that the deadly injury was directly correlated to his excessive alcohol consumption.

Some argue that the legal prohibition for half of college age students could be part of the problem

Williams’ death occurred on the same weekend that 20 Lehigh University students were arrested for underage drinking and five others were hospitalized for high blood-alcohol contents; the weekend before almost 60 Lehigh students were arrested after complaints of loud off-campus parties.

Incidents involving alcohol like these are, unfortunately, not uncommon. Four Lehigh students almost died in a span of two months last spring in alcohol poisoning related accidents. Maxwell Gruver, an 18-year-old freshman at Louisiana State University, died on Sept. 14 after consuming excessive amounts of alcohol while pledging the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. Most notably, Timothy Piazza, a 19-year-old sophomore at Penn State University, died this past February after sustaining injuries cause by the amount of alcohol he consumed during hazing for Beta Pi fraternity.

Statistically, more than 1,800 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related injuries, including motor-vehicle crashes, each year.

Incidents like these always bring about questions regarding college students and alcohol consumption. While many point the finger at fraternities, the schools themselves or careless students, some argue that the legal prohibition of alcohol for half of college-aged students could be part of the problem. Countries where the legal drinking age is between the ages of 16 and 18 have significantly less issues with binge drinking and alcohol-related accidents than the United States, the country with the second-highest legal drinking age in the world. So, could changing the drinking age really curb this issue?

Most Muhlenberg students would say “yes.”

“It’s a very touchy subject because it can go either way. If you lower it, you have students that don’t feel the need to rebel but at the same time you’re giving them access,” said Aine Filler ‘19. “Ultimately, lowering it would be better because they’re in college, you know what they’re going to do anyway, I think if you’re educated and have earlier access to it, there’d be less problems.”

Catherine Barrow ‘18 agrees with that sentiment. For her, a legal drinking age of 21 doesn’t make sense. At 18 years old, students are able to be tried as adults, are expected to choose a profession, can buy lottery tickets and tobacco and are eligible to sign up for the draft and join the armed forces. She believes that underage drinking issues are so prevalent because there is such a wait to drink legally, even in the beginning years of college when alcohol is readily accessible.

“People would be less worried about trying to hide being intoxicated and would be more likely to seek help,” said Jacob Fishman, a student visiting from Binghamton University.

Other students agreed with what Fishman had to say, arguing that lowering the legal drinking age would lessen the intensity of underage drinking, and thus, incidents where excessive alcohol consumption is the root cause of injury and death. Zulma Yucra, a student from the Wescoe School of Continuing Education, believes that the United States could learn something from countries like Argentina or Germany.

“It’s always going to be their choice and if there’s something prohibited they’re more tempted to do it,” said Yucra. “I’d rather have my son try it at 18, supervised with me, than him over due it the first time.”

Opinions about editing the current drinking age won’t change anything but conversations will and, unfortunately, recurring incidents like McCrae Williams’ are the catalyst.

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