Todd can only lose by not entering drinking debate

Last semester ended and students packed up their belongings, took final exams and headed home. But one more family didn’t welcome home their son. Brian Hardin died only a week before the end of school and the University of Kentucky added another tally to the list of student deaths.

Each year around 1,700 college students die in alcohol-related incidents on campuses throughout the nation. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 600,000 more are injured as a result of alcohol. College presidents around the country are stepping forward as part of the Amethyst Initiative to say 18 may be the answer.

Lowering the legal drinking age is the solution, said Michael Giuliani, executive director of Choose Responsibility, the group overseeing the project. The initiative is meant to start a dialogue about this national trend, and presidents of 128 universities including Duke, Syracuse, Ohio State and Murray State have signed on in support.

Not among the names on that list is UK President Lee Todd, who says he doesn’t have enough “data” to join the debate.

“(The Amethyst Initiative) must have information that they think they can bring forward in order to make a real debate,” Todd said.

What counts as debatable information? Jared Garner, Eric Vetter, Jeffrey Pfetzer, Brian Muth, Thomas Byers, Tevis Shaw, Lauren Fannin, Lindsey Harp, Brian Hardin. These are students, members of the UK community who have died in alcohol-related incidents since Todd became president in 2001. Nine students have died in seven years and there have been no changes to alcohol policies at UK. And the president doesn’t think he has enough data to even engage in a debate. There is debatable information, starting right here on campus.

“We’ve had some real tragic instances happen the past couple of years at the beginning of the year,” Todd said in response to the student deaths. “It just breaks your heart. You’ve got kids who are opening up a new doorway to their lives. Their parents are excited, their families are excited, and then there’s a quick termination to their dreams.”

But how many hearts have to break before we start to do more? Last year, UK Police arrested 357 people on driving under the influence and alcohol intoxication charges. Fifty-four more were charged with minor in possession. If Todd thinks alcohol isn’t something that needs immediate attention, he is wrong.

The Kernel commends the members of Choose Responsibility for beginning a dialogue, not only about the appropriate legal drinking age, but also for laying the groundwork for presidents of universities to begin talking about ways to deal with the dangerous alcohol trends and negative culture occurring on college campuses throughout the country.

As students at a university who have watched our peers die at the hand of alcohol, we strongly encourage, if not insist, that President Todd take a stance on the Amethyst Initiative and enter into the nationwide discussions about how to put an end to excess drinking on college campuses and dangerous situations that follow.

Does waiting for facts and statistics mean waiting on the death of another student? The data doesn’t need to be provided by anyone else. It’s right here. Nine students in seven years at UK. It’s time to take those numbers seriously.