September 23, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 14  

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Drinking age needs revision

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario's crackdown on underage drinking at campus bars - in correlation with the double cohort - shouldn't seem too surprising.

Nevertheless, the University Students' Council was forced to send its Wet/Dry program into limbo after AGCO inspectors caught three underage drinkers at The Wave last Friday night.

AGCO officials met with USC officials (and bar owners at most Ontario universities) at the beginning of the month to warn them that allowing underage patrons to mix with legal drinkers was going to be a problem. After receiving a follow-up letter from the AGCO, the USC - until last Friday night - felt there was a reasonable window of opportunity to make adjustments to the way Wet/Dry would work before any action was taken.

As it stands now, the AGCO could fine the USC or suspend the liquor licence (potentially affecting the entire campus, let alone the two USC bars, The Spoke and The Wave).

And even after examining this mess, it's difficult to assign absolute blame. The Wet/Dry program has existed for a decade, with little AGCO attention or complaint. For its part, the USC is simply trying to give all students access to the bars and the events that take place within. Although the underage students certainly "broke the rules," can we really attack university students for wanting to partake in drinking?

Now the USC is forced to examine its options, while at the same time awaiting word of any sanctions from the AGCO. One option currently under examination is to limit drinking to the upper part of The Wave and have the lower part permanently dry. The Spoke will likely never have a Wet/Dry system again unless significant renovations take place.

Perhaps the most frustrating part for young frosh is that they had to line up for their Wet/Dry cards and now they're worthless (for the time being).

But there is one simple, straightforward and intelligent solution (which means it will probably never happen): the government should lower the legal drinking age to 18.

By eliminating the Ontario Academic Credit year (or grade 13) the government took a conscious position that 18 year old students were mature enough to go to university. Logic dictates these same individuals are mature enough to drink alcohol as well.

The AGCO crackdown means underage students will be treated like second-class citizens in the post-secondary social atmosphere. There is no significant difference in the maturity level of 18 year olds and 19 year olds. And although you could make the same argument for those aged 17 and then 16 etc., making the cut-off age the same as the average high school graduate's age seems the most reasonable.



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