After Lengthy Senate Hearing Today, Top Lawmakers Look to Future
TRENTON � Senate President Richard J. Codey (D-Essex) and Senate Education Chairwoman Shirley Turner (D-Mercer) today said they will introduce legislation to form a taskforce to examine best practices to curb underage and binge drinking on college campuses. The announcement came after a lengthy hearing on the issue before the Senate Education Committee, which heard testimony from both Senators, several college presidents and administrators, law enforcement officials, and representatives from the state Department of Law and Public Safety and the Commission on Higher Education.
�After we examined all of the alcohol policies submitted to us by state colleges and universities, it was clear that there is no uniform policy to effectively address this serious issue,� said Sen. Codey. �I think a taskforce is the best way to bring our colleges together cooperatively to find solutions to address the problem head on. We saw how effective this was after we convened a taskforce to discuss campus security in light of the Virginia Tech tragedy. Hopefully we can get the same type of hands-on results.�
“Under my proposed legislation, the Task Force will take a look at the different alcohol policies of colleges and universities here in New Jersey and around the country, and develop a list of recommendations that we can then apply to campuses around the State,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer, who chairs the Senate Education Committee. “This isn’t about crafting a one-size-fits-all alcohol policy for all of New Jersey’s institutions of higher learning, but rather working to set up a basic set of guidelines for campuses to follow when dealing with underage drinking.”
Although the legislation must still be drafted, the taskforce would likely consist of law enforcement representatives, college administrators, and alcohol retailers, among other stakeholders. The idea of a taskforce was first suggested during the hearing today by Glen Miller, Stockton College Chief of Police and Chairman of the New Jersey College and University Public Safety Association.
The following is a copy of Senator Codey�s testimony, as delivered today before the Senate Education Committee:
Chairwoman Turner, members of the Committee… thank you for convening this important hearing.
When this initiative first gained attention this summer, my first reaction was…this is crazy…we can�t just throw in the towel.
But in retrospect, it has helped spark a debate on a subject we�re all well aware of, but one we just never decide to look into.
We�re not here to debate whether or not we should lower the drinking age.
I can tell you right now, that�s not going to happen.
We�re here to save lives and make campuses safer for all of our kids.
Now listen, my head is not buried in the sand.
I know what goes on in college.
I have one son who is a sophomore and another who graduated not too long ago.
The statistics speak for themselves – each year nearly 2,000 college students die from unintentional alcohol related injuries, roughly 97,000 are assaulted or raped and 600,000 are injured.
Sadly, another New Jersey teen from the University of Delaware was just added to that statistic.
And as you all know we�ve had a number of tragic incidents at our own state colleges, most recently at Rider University and the College of New Jersey.
Students are under enormous pressure in college, both to fit in and excel.
At times, I�m sure they feel pressured to engage in underage and binge drinking.
I know we aren�t going to eradicate these dangerous habits entirely.
But, I do know we need to find a workable approach to the issue.
Maybe it needs to be a combination of tough love and better education.
Perhaps we need to explore the best practices in place today and institute a uniform policy across all college campuses.
Most importantly, students need to know that we�re not going to turn a blind eye to the issue.
They also need to be taught the cold, hard facts.
Drinking, particularly binge drinking, can kill.
Perhaps we need to do a better job of showing students the cold hard reality of this abuse.
– more –
The student who dies from alcohol poisoning, the one who gets hit by a car stumbling home, the one who falls down the stairs and breaks his neck, or the many others who have been raped or assaulted.
We all know what it�s like to be that age – you feel infallible.
Now add alcohol to that equation, and you feel almost superhuman.
I think we need to find a way to effectively use these examples to educate students so that out of these tragedies, lives can be saved.
The victims of alcohol abuse are not just the drinkers themselves; they are also innocent private citizens and other people on campus that aren�t drinking, but might be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
And those students that we can�t reach through education, need to know that they�re not going to get away with just a slap on the wrist.
They need to know that their parents are going to be notified, and that they may face substantial penalties, both academic or punitive.
Listen, I�m not out to punish our students.
It�s my hope that stricter policies will help deter irresponsible and dangerous behavior.
After looking over the different policies for each college campus, it�s clear that there is no uniform response to the issue.
Some colleges don�t even require parental notification.
I know each college is unique, but the problem of underage drinking is universal.
And we need an approach that reflects that.
One that involves parents, school officials, law enforcement and alcohol retailers.
We send our kids off to college to pave the way for a brighter future. Its our responsibility to protect them from the temptations that lie along this path.
And that requires a full court press.
It�s my sincere hope that through discussion and analysis today, we can get a clear picture of what is working on our college campuses and the strengths and weaknesses of the different policies in place.
If this hearing today turns out to be the impetus that brings our colleges together to share ideas and establish a set of guidelines that we can use to combat underage & binge drinking, then this hearing today will have been a huge success.
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