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The U.S. has a high legal drinking age compared to many other countries where it’s 18.

Back in March of this year, Barstool Sports released their rankings for the Top 50 Party Schools, with JMU ranking 37th. As always, there was much bickering on Twitter, and many JMU students were distraught by the standings. DukesTailgate notably criticized Liberty University’s placement above JMU on this list on Twitter. Of course, no party school ranking system is an exact science. 

Nevertheless, behind this ranking is a much darker reality: College campuses around the country are fighting underage drinking — and losing.

JMU is no stranger to the battle against substance abuse. In August alone, there were 34 reported alcohol violations, according to the JMU Police Department’s daily crime log  — and most students only started to arrive on Aug. 19. On top of simple alcohol violations, there’s been a fair amount of alcohol-related crime; just this month, on Sept. 9, five cars were damaged in an East Campus parking lot by a suspected drunk driver. 

When comparing the U.S. to other countries, it becomes evident the U.S. is the odd man out; most European countries hold their minimum legal drinking age at 18. Given this fact, it’s not surprising that there’s a push among college students to reduce the drinking age. Livia LaMarca, a staff columnist for The Pitt News, advocates for this reduction in drinking age. LaMarca claims it would create a safer environment for drinking in her article “Lowering the drinking age creates safer environments for college.” Unfortunately, these students don’t realize they’re the reason the U.S. drinking age remains at 21. 

Following the end of prohibition, with the passing of the 21st Amendment, most states set their minimum drinking age at 21 although some were set lower, as indicated by ProCon.org, a subsidiary of Britannica. This was the case until The 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which threatened to remove a portion of funding from states that didn’t increase their drinking age to 21. By the end of the 1980s, all states had raised the minimum drinking age to 21. Today, the drinking age seems to be less subject to change than ever before. 

Eivind Grip Fjær and Willy Pedersen, two researchers from the University of Oslo, explained the link between value priorities and drunken behavior in their article published in 2015: “Drinking and moral order: Drunken comportment revisited.” Essentially, Fjær and Pedersen tie together the idea that the context of drinking, and the norms associated with said context, can predict how individuals will behave. For example, if people are drinking at a party for pleasure, it isn’t too surprising that other pleasure-seeking behaviors, like non-consensual intercourse, may arise. By contrast, if people are drinking for social integration, say among friends in a dorm, no problematic behavior is likely to emerge because social integration doesn’t have many morally objectionable routes.

While there’s familial and social drinking present in the U.S., we differ from other western countries because there’s a substantial culture of drinking for the euphoria of intoxication; responsible drinking just doesn’t seem to appeal to undergraduates here in the states. Unsurprisingly, this ill-advised activity typically manifests in reckless behavior among college students that put others in danger.

“I think it’s a little different culturally,“ freshman elementary education major Natalie Strong said in regard to international drinking cultures. “[Europeans] also might put a different view on how they use alcohol, over here it’s just for parties and for fun, over there it’s just like another drink or something.”

The behavior of students drinking under 21 in the U.S. only further cements the current drinking age being the permanent reality. 

We have a culture that supports drinking for pleasure, which creates the opportunity for students to make poorly judged decisions in the pursuit of hedonism ­­— a culture not present in other countries. Until college students at least learn to control the context in which they indulge, the minimum drinking age will remain at 21. 

As reported by OnMilwakee, a few Republican lawmakers pushed to decrease the drinking age to 19 in 2017 but failed to get the support from the Republican Assembly Speaker, Robin Voss, and thus, the bill died. If you want change to come, your legislators need to see a sense of responsibility in your intoxicated activities. Please, drink in the right context — or better yet, don’t drink at all. 

Ethan Jardines is a freshman geography major. Contact Ethan at jardineg@dukes.jmu.edu. For more editorials regarding the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the opinion desk on Instagram and Twitter @Breeze_Opinion.