“Underage Drinking Must Stop,” Sam Clark (2012) — Inquiry 3

Writer’s Reflection

I wrote this piece to convince President Hodge that the underage drinking policy at Miami is not effective, and serious changes need to be made in order to keep our campus safe. I opted to address the letter to President Hodge because I felt he would be the one most likely to be interested in the issue as well as the most likely to be able to change the problem. Although this is a letter directed to President Hodge, it could also be read by other campus officials and be just as effective. As I wrote this essay I felt that I did a good job at bringing the reader in, convincing the reader, and backing up my arguments with credibility.

This paper brought a couple challenges, such as separating my belief that the drinking age should be lowered and my belief that Miami’s underage drinking policy is too lenient and needs to be changed. This challenged me when I picked a topic and when I created my rough draft, but for my final draft I was able to eliminate everything about the drinking age and condense my paper so that I was only talking about Miami’s underage drinking policy.

Drafting this paper was a long process that required many pieces to be put together. I first had to create a rough draft and receive advice from both my professor and the peers that could help enhance my paper. I then sat down to make these changes, which included adding more detail to the paper, writing a new introduction, eliminating wordy passages and invalid arguments (condensing my argument), and editing spelling and grammar errors. I also revised by including several new sentences and a new paragraph (third to last paragraph). After rereading my writing, I believe that this paragraph is the most meaningful part of this letter because it really makes President Hodge think about what is important to him and grabs his emotions.

By writing this paper, I have learned that I am truly never finished with a paper. Between my ideas, rough draft, and final draft I made several drastic changes that enhanced my paper and made me realize there is always something else that can be fixed to make a paper better. With this being said, even though I am turning in a “final draft” that I am very pleased with, I am confident that there are even more changes that could be made to bring my paper closer to perfection.


November 2, 2010

Dear President Hodge,

Imagine this. You’re lying in your bed at 11:00 p.m. on a Thursday night, nervously thinking about your Chemistry exam that awaits you the next morning. To make matters worse the exam starts at 8:00 a.m. You want to be appropriately rested and hope to be asleep by midnight. You are continuing to hear the kids next to you as they scream, “Chug, chug, chug” or “hurry up and chase that.” It’s now 11:30 and the drunken noise is still ramped. At this point you are just hoping they leave to go uptown soon and allow some peace and quiet. But tonight the kids next door decide it’s too cold to go uptown. Rather, they are just going to stay in the dorm and drink. Before you know it, it’s well past midnight, and you are still yet to fall asleep. The chants are starting to stop, but now it’s doors slamming every couple minutes as people start to leave or use the restroom. Finally the noise comes to a conclusion, and you fall asleep around 2:00 a.m. Five or so hours of sleep later, you struggle to get up and get to your Chemistry exam on time. You’re so tired you can’t even think Chemistry; rather, all you can think about is getting back to your dorm and sleeping. A week later you get your exam back and receive a D, a grade that will drastically impact your final grade. It is obvious that this is not fair, and you have every right to be upset at the drunken kids who were partying next to your room the night before your exam.

While unfortunate, many students on your campus have similar stories to this. This unfortunate situation can only be explained by one problem: underage, irresponsible drinking at Miami University. With this being said, there is action that needs to be taken that is in your control that could greatly improve the underage drinking problems here at Miami. Miami University needs to enforce underage alcohol consumption much more strictly and develop a no forgiveness policy.

As you are aware, Miami has recently been in the news for the wrong reasons, creating a poor reputation for the university. It started with last spring’s sorority incidents and has continued into this year with large amounts of students being arrested for irresponsible, underage drinking. Underage alcohol consumption is becoming an increasing issue here at Miami, and if action is not taken soon, who knows what could happen to your students.

The best way to prevent these occurrences from happening is to stop underage drinking before it begins. I recognize that Miami officials have put effort into stopping underage drinking before it starts; however, they are putting too much focus into underage drinking at bars and not into underage drinking in residence halls. An article in the Miami Student explains, “OPD is publicizing its fight against underage drinking in police reports and many more law-violating students and bartenders have been arrested than in previous years” (“Underage Drinking”). This has positively increased the level of precaution underage students take when consuming alcohol uptown. Law enforcement is equipping bouncers with proper tools to identify false identification as well as encouraging bars to check multiple IDs before admitting customers as over 21 (“Underage Drinking”). These movements have effectively slowed down underage drinking at bars, but you and your officials are overlooking the greater issue of underage drinking: students “pre-gaming” in their dorm rooms prior to going out.

Underage students easily receive their alcohol from a fake ID or an older friend or sibling on campus who purchases the alcohol for them. The alcohol is then smuggled into their residence hall in backpacks and duffel bags. Students then drink in their dorms, as it is cheaper, and the chances of getting caught are much slimmer. Once they reach the proper state of mind they head uptown to the bars. This is when most of the trouble starts that leads to a poor reputation for Miami University.

As you know, within the first month of this school year, 102 students were arrested for underage drinking incidents, an increase of more than 40 students from last year’s first month (“Irresponsible Drinking”). Based on what I have previously stated, I hope you and your officials realize that a majority of these incidents don’t stem from underage students drinking at bars, but rather drinking in dorms. On top of the increased effort to stop underage drinking at the bars, you and your officials must make intensive efforts to decrease drinking in residence halls in order to effectively slow down underage drinking.

The University’s current drinking policy might appear strict at first glance, but as you read further into the details, it is actually very lenient. According to Miami’s Code of Conduct, a student who is underage and found with alcohol or who is intoxicated on campus is subject to a Code One offense. When a student receives a Code One for the first time they are fined $250 and must attend a four-week, $200 alcohol education class. In other words, a first-time offense does not have any detriment to a student’s life or career path, just a hit to their pocket, which often comes from mommy and daddy. Following a citation, a student who is found to have committed a Code One offense for the second time will then face a minimal suspension.

On top of a forgiving drinking policy, the policy is also poorly enforced. In reality, what is the point of even having a drinking policy if it is not properly enforced? Is it just to save face and look good to those outside of Oxford? I spoke with a first-year student, who preferred to remain anonymous, who told me that he has “been throwing two to three get-togethers a week in his dorm room and has not once been questioned by a RA.” The interviewee said there have been large amounts of alcohol in the room, but he said he doesn’t fear getting a Code One because it would just serve as a warning. This is the stance the majority of underage Miami students take on having alcohol in the dorms. They realize the chances of them getting caught drinking are slim, and they know that it will take them getting caught twice before they get into any serious trouble.

I commend you and the other university officials for putting in place our current alcohol policy, but the current policy must be more strictly enforced and/or changed. “Policies can only work if they are sufficiently enforced,” says Sion Kim Harris, PhD, and if they are not enforced then they will not be followed (“Strict Enforcement”). In order to make the current policy work, there needs to be more enforcement from campus security, RAs, and other campus officials. I personally have witnessed RAs turn their heads from alcohol-related incidents in order to avoid altercation. In order to tackle the problem of underage drinking on campus, this cannot happen. RAs being stricter with their residents is a key component to stopping underage drinking on campus.

While I realize that there are many students who disagree with me and feel that there is no need to enforce underage drinking, their argument has little credibility and is not in the best interest of the entire student body. When asked what he thought about enforcing underage drinking, one student stated, “College only happens once, and the university should let us live it up.” While this statement presents a valid point, it includes little thought and does not take into account students who live different lifestyles. Over 40% of college students ages 18-20 don’t drink alcohol, and it is not fair for such a large percent of students to have to deal with the distractions of drunken students around their residence halls (“Underage Alcohol Use”). If underage drinking is not more strictly enforced, these innocent students are held back by their inconsiderate dorm mates.

I also understand the worry that a stricter alcohol policy could drive away potential students. Why yes this might be true, when you break it down and weigh your priorities, is that what you are most worried about? Are the students who decide not to attend a university because of their underage drinking policy the high-character students that Miami University wants here in Oxford? Would you rather bring in more students to an unsafe campus with a poor reputation? Or would you rather bring in less, but more high-character students into a safer, more respected university? These answers are self-explanatory to me, but take a minute and decide what you feel is more important for you and your university.

As previously stated, changes that need to be made in order to improve Miami’s reputation are stricter enforcement of underage drinking as well as less forgiving penalties. Suggested changes are a no-forgiveness policy, which would lead to a minimal suspension for first-time underage drinking offenders and expulsion for second-time offenders. This might seem harsh, but as stated previously, the best way to stop a problem is to strictly enforce a policy against the issue. If this stricter policy is put into place with greater enforcement, underage students are much less likely to risk consuming alcohol, as most will not find it worth the possible punishments. On top of acquiring a stricter underage drinking policy, RA’s and campus security should be taught to be less lenient and keep a better eye out for suspicious activity. If an RA comes across anything that seems suspicious they should take action and either confront the residence or involve MUPD if the resident does not comply. The less lenient RA’s are when it comes to drinking in the dorms the more effective Miami will be able to cut down on underage, irresponsible drinking. I hope you realize the importance RA’s will have in cutting down underage drinking and when the selection of RA’s comes around, officials should be exclusive and selective in hiring RA’s that are committed to strictly withholding university policy.

You and I both know that underage drinking has become a serious issue on our campus and your underage students are at greater risk of endangering themselves each time they consume alcohol. I hope you have time to ponder this letter and over time can agree with me that the best way to fix this issue is to acquire a more strict policy that is strictly enforced. Next time you are in a meeting with other Miami University officials and the topic of underage drinking arises, I hope my ideas have left a lasting impression on you, and can be brought up in an effort to decrease underage drinking here at Miami.


Sam Michael Clark



Works Cited

Anonymous. Interview by Sam Clark. Web. 19 Oct. 2010.

“Chapter 2: The Code of Student Conduct.” Code of Conduct. 2-6. Miami University. Web. 14 Oct. 2010.

“Irresponsible Drinking Behavior Must Stop.” The Miami Student. 9 Sept. 2010. Web. 14 Oct. 2010.

“Strict Enforcement of College Alcohol Policies Reduces Binge and Underage Drinking on Campus.” JoinTogether. 17 Aug. 2010. Web. 21 Oct. 2010.

“Underage Alcohol Use among Full-Time College Students, SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies.” Office of Applied Studies. Web. 21 Oct. 2010.

“Underage Drinking Must Be Stopped before It Starts.” The Miami Student. 11 Oct. 2010. Web. 14 Oct. 2010.