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Could lowering the legal drinking age stem sexual assaults on college campuses?

A party underway after kickoff near UC Berkeley.
A party underway after kickoff near UC Berkeley.
Daniel Parks/Flickr

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It’s no secret that underage drinking on college campuses is an issue that administrators have been dealing with for many years. More recently, an uptick in sexual assaults on college campuses across the country has drawn a lot of attention to the amount of binge drinking and underage drinking that goes on at a typical college or university. A recentop-ed in the New York Times tackles this issue, and argues that lowering the drinking age could be the first step to helping curb sexual assault on college campuses.

A recent article in Rolling Stone chronicled the sexual assault of a University of Virginia student and her discovery that trying to bring her attackers to justice would only result in more pain. Colleges and universities are now faced with the challenge of not only curbing binge and underage drinking, but also finding a way to curb sexual assaults.

Those in favor of lowering the drinking age say the current drinking age pushes many college students to drink under the radar by attending fraternity parties or other social gatherings. They say a lower drinking age would allow students to drink in public establishments where staff or security personnel are present rather than at private house parties. Those opposed to lowering the drinking age say that it would only encourage more binge drinking at a younger age, which could lead to more sexual assault.

Do you think the drinking age should be lowered? What age should it be? If the drinking age were lowered, what impact would it have on sexual assaults on college campuses?


Jed Rubenfeld, Robert R. Slaughter Professor of Law at Yale Law School, Yale University, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times about how colleges are mishandling rape

Bill DeJong, Professor of Community Health Sciences at Boston University’s School of Public Health