Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Chancellor Wiley throws down the gauntlet, again

Thank you for responding to my challenge to come up with creative and positive suggestions for dealing with chronic alcohol-related problems in our community. Your editorial “Fixing, not Shifting” (Badger Herald, April 25, 2002) did just that. The measures you support (better and more consistent enforcement at house parties, keg registration, social norming and more alternatives to drinking) are all good ideas.

I know you continue to oppose restrictions on drink specials. I favor such limitations for several reasons. First, research and common sense both show that high-risk drinking is always associated with high volumes of alcohol available at cheap prices. The research shows that each 10 percent increase in the cost of alcohol reduces consumption by about 4 percent. Alcohol is cheaper today, in real terms, than it was before most of you were born, in part because the excise taxes on alcohol haven’t increased since 1969 (for beer) and 1981 (for essentially everything else), and partly because of the prevalence of specials.

Second, the blitz of screaming ads for drink specials helps create the environment in which high-volume drinking is viewed as the norm or the expectation. The Herald issues from 1969 show few or no ads for “drink specials,” and most of the ads were for beer, which was apparently priced at about $1/pitcher. (Interestingly, many establishments did advertise live entertainment and food specials!)

Third, I think the nature of many of the specials is simply irresponsible. Most of the students transported to detox have gotten themselves into that situation by (surprise) not realizing how much alcohol they were consuming and not feeling the effects until it was too late to avoid seriously dangerous blood alcohol levels.

In all our discussions and debates, it is critical to remain focused on the real problem: The problem is high-risk drinking and all the negative consequences that flow from extreme drunkenness. High-risk drinking is the target: Not drinking, per se, and not underage drinking, but high-risk drinking at any age, and in any venue.

Letters to the editor, guest editorials, and comments from the Tavern League suggesting we should focus on enforcement of the 21 drinking age, lowering the drinking age, eliminating beer sales in the Unions, etc., are missing this essential point.

In any event, I do appreciate your constructive suggestions, even while we respectfully disagree on some measures. I also share your concern about house parties, but not to the exclusion of everything else. There is no one measure that will “solve” the high-risk drinking problem once and for all, but that’s no excuse for complacency. Thank you for helping to keep this a topic of discussion.

John Wiley,

Chancellor

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