I HAVE LEARNED THAT THIS COLUMN CAN touch a few nerves. Two examples of this are editorials I wrote about guns and alcohol, both of which continue to draw reader response long after they were published.
In the first column (“Should Students Be Armed?” May) I told about a group called Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCCC) who want the right to carry concealed weapons on campus to defend themselves from violence.
Moses Baines, assistant dean at the Louisiana Technical College—Natchitoches, told me about a bill in the Louisiana House to allow that very thing. The bill passed in committee by 11-3, but it was ultimately shelved in the full House when it couldn’t get the 53 votes required to pass it.
“I am as concerned as anyone else about shootings on college campuses,” Baines wrote. “However, I do not believe that we should let the baser elements in our society set the benchmark for how an enlightened society should function. Simply put, let’s not permit the criminals and the criminally insane to dictate how we function. There are situations that could occur that would be an invitation for deadly accidents or incidents. Sporting and celebratory events where alcohol would be consumed would be such a situation. What about the dormitories? Are we to permit weapons to be kept there also? Get a visual of that kind of fiasco! I agree with most students and educators; we do not need more guns on campus, but fewer of them.”
A student at Ball State University (Ind.) sent this note:
“Today I was inspired, after reading an interview in our paper with the local SCCC chapter, to find some information and opinions of other people on the issue. I completely agree with everything you said in your article. It’s ridiculous that people think the solution to guns is more guns. This is a college campus, a place for peace, education, and life, not for guns and an increased chance for firefights in the dining halls.”
In the second column (“A Long Overdue Conversation,” October), I wrote about the Amethyst Initiative, a group of higher education leaders who say it’s time to “rethink the drinking age.” I said the group’s message was being drowned out by louder voices that misrepresented their cause.
Robert Ritschel, president of Spoon River College (Ill.), wrote, “As one of the 130 who signed the initiative, I applaud your editorial. Be prepared, however, to receive a ‘spam load’ of e-mails from MADD. My CIO cut off access to my account after the e-mails reached over 500. I even received a letter yesterday (same template) from another ‘outraged’ individual who learned of my support and urged me to recant.
“You are ‘dead on’ in your assessment that just about every letter and e-mail suggests we are for reducing the age to 18. The initiative didn’t state that, and neither did we.”
Nathan Warthan, director of Financial Aid at Corban College & Graduate School (Ore.), disagreed with my suggestion that the Amethyst group’s action showed backbone.
“I don’t think it’s backbone, I think it’s surrender,” he wrote. “The Amethyst Initiative sounds like it is leaning toward giving up instead of reinforcing the hard work necessary.
“What if the college presidents really grew a backbone and addressed why students are showing up on their campuses with attitudes about drinking that are unhealthy, in the first place? Why don’t they ask why those attitudes are reinforced when they step on campus? Why don’t our college presidents take a strong stand instead of a weak one?”
I believe the Amethyst signers are taking a strong stand by raising an issue that many wish would simply go away. As I said, MADD has done many commendable things in its existence. But, 30 years later, alcohol is still a huge problem on campus. As voters in the recent election made clear, “more of the same” isn’t working. It’s time to try something new.
Write to Tim Goral at firstname.lastname@example.org.