Codey Announces Senate Hearings On Underage & Binge Drinking

Senate President Requests Copy of Colleges’ Policies on Underae Drinking for Review & Analysis

TRENTON – In response to a national movement by a group of college presidents to lower the legal drinking age, Senate President Richard J. Codey (D-Essex) is tackling the problem head on, announcing Senate hearings on the issue of underage drinking on college campuses. In doing so, Codey also sent a letter yesterday to the presidents of New Jersey’s colleges and universities requesting a copy of their alcohol policies, as well as details on local law enforcement’s involvement in enforcing laws on campuses.

“It’s crucial that we tackle this growing problem head on,” said Codey. “I’m the father of two college-age sons. I understand what goes on in college. Underage and binge drinking are a sad fact of life. But it’s illegal and we need to do all we can to deter it. We can’t afford to throw in the towel and simply lower the drinking age. That would be utterly irresponsible. We need to examine the problem at the root, make sure that our colleges are not turning a blind eye to underage drinking, and find real ways to educate our students on acting responsibly.”

Codey said that Senator Shirley Turner (D-Mercer), Chair of the Senate Education Committee, has agreed to hold hearings on the issue once the Office of Legislative Services has had time to conduct a thorough review and analysis of each college’s policy. Codey’s letter was sent to the head of every public and private college and university in New Jersey with a residential campus.

“As the grandmother of a college age grandson and as an employee of a university, I know firsthand what takes place on college campuses,” said Sen. Turner. “I do realize the importance of protecting students on campus from falling prey to underage and binge drinking. With this in mind, we need a shared responsibility and a coordinated effort from everyone involved – schools, parents, law enforcement, and alcohol retailers – to truly educate our kids on the dangers of alcohol abuse and ward off potentially harmful behavior.”

Codey has been an adamant opponent of lowering the drinking age in light of the Amethyst Initiative, a movement by a national group of college presidents and chancellors to debate and rethink the legal drinking age of 21. He has cited a litany of statistics that demonstrate that raising the national drinking age to 21 has had a profound impact on lives saved and injuries avoided.

“There is no conclusive evidence that lowering the drinking age will curb binge drinking practices,” Codey said. “On the contrary, we’ve seen traffic fatalities among 18 to 20-year olds drop by roughly 13 percent since the drinking age was raised, saving more than 25,000 lives. And alcohol use by high school seniors has dropped more than 10 percent since 1991.”

In requesting each college’s policy on underage drinking, Codey also requested that schools include details on how their local law enforcement authorities deal with underage drinking. Last week, Codey called on New Jersey’s congressional delegation to block any movement at the federal level to lower the legal drinking age and vowed to make sure New Jersey’s drinking age remains at 21. A full copy of Codey’s letter is included below:

September 10, 2008

Dear President:

It is with the utmost concern that I write to you regarding your institution’s policy on underage and binge drinking on campus. As you are well aware, there is a growing national debate centered around lowering the legal drinking age from 21.

As educators, I’m sure you understand the ill effects of drinking, both on long-term health and immediate safety. What we cannot afford to do is turn a blind eye to the dangerous habits that have proliferated on many college campuses. Students and their parents deserve to know that we are doing all we can to deter reckless drinking habits and crack down on these practices.

With this in mind, I am requesting that your institution forward a copy of your alcohol policies to the Senate Education Committee (OLS, Senate Education Committee, P.O. Box 068, Trenton, NJ, 08625-0068, Attention: Anita Saynisch) so that we can conduct a thorough review and analysis to ensure that all of New Jersey’s higher learning institutions are tackling the problem head on with the attention that it deserves.

I ask that you include your policies as they pertain to education and enforcement of underage drinking policies on campus, and specifically the issue of binge drinking. I also ask that you include the policies of your local law enforcement agency, with respect to their involvement in enforcing local laws on your campus and the penalties that exist for violation of underage drinking laws.

Your attention to this matter is appreciated.

Sincerely,

Richard J. Codey

Senate President