Lowering the drinking age would reduce the number of sexual assaults on college campuses

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Events like Battle of the Bands could take on a whole different ambiance if all students were allowed to drink. Photo by Elizabeth Kerin.

Every University of Dallas student had some unexpected homework to do before school started. UD mandated every student take Campus Clarity’s online course regarding sexual assault in order for the University to comply with its Title IX responsibilities.

Campus Clarity is a business which helps universities comply with the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (SaVE), which is an amendment to existing legislation. This amendment institutes additional reporting requirements education requirements and discipline requirements in order to prevent sexual violence on college campuses. If UD does not comply with these requirements, it will receive a $35,000 fine for each offense and lose eligibility for federal student aid programs.

The Campus SaVE Act came in response to the public outcry regarding the number of sexual assaults on college campuses. This narrative is perpetuated by a study claiming that one in five women are sexually assaulted at least once during their college careers.

The problem with this study is that it surveyed only two college campuses and only 5,000 female students. Two of the researchers of this study said that the study is inappropriate to use as a baseline when discussing sexual assault on campus.

A study done by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics more accurately found that 1 in 52.6 women will be sexually assaulted at least once during their four years at college. Findings from the same study show that female students experience lower rates of sexual assault than female non-students and that the total number of sexual assaults has been decreasing since 1997.

From 2012 to 2014, UD’s Irving campus has experienced one case of rape, one case of fondling, one case of dating violence and three cases of stalking. Although one case of sexual assault is one too many, just as 1 in 52.6 women being victims of sexual assault is too many, it looks like instances of sexual assault, at least at UD, are isolated incidents rather than a systematic epidemic. Nonetheless, there are actions that the government can and should take to further accelerate the decline of sexual assaults.

A measure that the government should employ to combat sexual assault in addition to online education courses would be to lower the drinking age to 18.

In the 1980s, states raised their drinking ages to 21 because of the threat of losing 10 percent of their federal highway funds. This caused college students to take their drinking habits underground, away from the accountability that is natural to public environments and away from the authority bartenders have to cut off intoxicated drinkers.

Now, students are forced into private residences where binge-drinking has become prevalent. As the Campus Clarity course emphasized, alcohol can be a huge factor in instances of sexual assault.

A study published in the Journal of Alcohol Research and Health in 2001 found that alcohol is involved in about half of sexual assaults. Drinking in college should be pushed out into the bars and other public spaces, where there is much more accountability and where younger drinkers can learn how to use alcohol properly.

A decrease in the drinking age would lead to a safer UD. Students would be less inclined to pre-game UD-sponsored   events, such as TGIT and Groundhog, if they knew they would have access to alcohol at events. The drinking that would have been done in Old Mill or dorm rooms would now take place in a public area supervised by Campus Safety. To say the least, if students are going to pass out after drinking too much, it is safer for them to do so in the presence of trained CSO officers than in a random apartment in Old Mill.

Sexual assault, although not as prevalent as some suggest, is still a complex problem that needs to be addressed. The Campus Clarity course can help decrease sexual assaults at universities, including UD, but a more effective solution of lowering the drinking age must be initiated at the government level to eliminate the environments in which sexual assaults take place. Lowering the drinking age in and of itself would not create a culture where alcohol and human beings are treated properly, but it would be a step in the right direction.

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