Underage drinking: when minors become a major problem

Binge drinking has been a part of college culture for decades as almost every teen movie showcases young adults consuming alcohol once they move into college.

Drinking at social events is a very typical trend throughout all college campuses as well as the whole country. Although it does have a tendency to correlate with other more serious crimes such as sexual assault and different levels of abuse.

Many might not think a couple drinks here and there is a big deal. However, when you repeatedly expose your brain to chemicals that are in alcohol it may cause serious health issues down the road.

Thad Shunkwiler, assistant professor in the department of health science at Minnesota State University, Mankato, teaches in the alcohol and drug studies program and is a licensed health care clinician. 

“The human brain doesn’t fully develop until the age of 25 or even later so when you inject chemicals that have its primary impact on the brain, you’re changing the physiology of how that organ works, and with repeated exposure it may create long lasting complications,” Shunkwiler said.

Although ultimately it is the person’s choice to choose to partake in consuming alcohol, it is very important to educate and inform students on the risks and consequences. 

“I think it is important for students to understand that alcohol is a dangerous chemical and in some instances it can take people’s lives, it can happen to anyone and most of the time it’s people who look just like us. It is so important to educate students about the less harmful ways to consume alcohol if that is what they choose to do while in college.”

Although there are health risks that come with choosing to drink there are also legal consequences if you do decide to drink underage. 

The fine for underage consumption or a ‘minor’ is roughly $180 and categorized as a petty misdemeanor. The Mankato police department also has a strike policy that states if you rent from somewhere and you have a strike within that specific property it will stay with that property for the continuous year. 

These strikes are usually party- or noise-related and those who are renting should educate themselves on their specific property since two or more strikes will have consequences to the owner and occupant.

Other charges you may be faced with is a Social Host citation which is a misdemeanor charge. If you are hosting a party and there is underage consumption taking place, it is a violation for the owners of that property. 

Dan Schisel, associate director with the Mankato Department of Public Safety, has worked in the city for 29 years. He was born and raised in Mankato and is a MNSU alumnus.

“It’s about safety and zero tolerance,” he said. “If you’re hosting a party and have a few friends over, that’s fine. But the minute you have individuals there that are underage and you are not in control of the party you are liable for them.”

“If something were to happen to an individual that was underage you are accountable for that and it comes down to safety and making sure this is a safe environment for everyone,” he said.

Since thousands of MNSU students are back in the city, there is no surprise there will be an increase in calls for service, especially after the unusual COVID-19 school year. 

“As far as staffing goes we adjust our staff accordingly and recognize that it does pick up when the college students come back as well as it being busy in the evenings,” Schisel stated.

When it comes to the school, MNSU is notified on a regular basis if any student between the ages of 18 to 24 years-old is arrested. 

MNSU does require all freshmen either living on campus or off campus to take an alcohol safety crash course that educates students on the consequences of drinking and how to prevent binge drinking. 

“I’d say the students are informed about the consequences of drinking,” said freshman Mac Brooks. “We talk about that during our floor meetings during the first weeks of school.”

“I think we’re informed more on the health consequences of alcohol rather than the punishment by the school,” said freshman Alayna Caven. 

MNSU does take action when necessary if certain students living on campus do not comply with the zero tolerance policy pertaining to drugs or alcohol. This may result in getting removed from the residence hall.

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