BU president opposes lowered drinking age

Erinn Deshinsky

Members with the Amethyst Initiative - a national movement to lower the drinking age from 21 to 18 - won't be adding Bradley University to a list of proponents.

Bradley University President Joanne Glasser said she "vehemently" disagrees with the idea lowering the drinking age will make college campuses safer.

"Based on the tragic and untimely alcohol-related deaths of two Bradley students last year, I recognize more than others the very serious consequences of this proposal," Glasser said Monday. "Rather than spending our time trying to lower the drinking age, universities should be focusing our attention on programs and activities that address both the responsible use of alcohol and a reduction in the misuse and abuse of alcohol on our respective campuses."

Looking back in the past five years, the central Illinois school has lost three students in alcohol-related incidents. Only one of those killed was younger than 21.

Last March, Bradley junior Robert M. Hurt, 21, of Pontiac was killed after falling into oncoming traffic while horsing around with a friend. Witnesses said he and his friends had been drinking at an off-campus house and were en route to another location when he was struck by a car. Toxicology tests revealed Hurt's blood-alcohol content was 0.205 percent, more than twice the state's legal threshold for drunkenness - 0.08 percent.

In August 2007, Bradley soccer player Sheridan "Danny" Dahlquist, 19, was killed in a house fire caused by a prank by four of his friends. That group also admitted they had been drinking. The underage Dahlquist had a blood-alcohol content of 0.155 percent.

A night of binge drinking ultimately led to the death of 22-year-old fifth-year senior Robert "Bob" Schmalz in September 2003. Schmalz, a member of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity, had been drinking for at least 12 hours during and after the university's Greek ceremony dubbed "Calling Out." Tests showed he had a blood-alcohol content between 0.33 percent and 0.41 percent.

Other schools in central Illinois were not as firm on their stances.

In Macomb, Western Illinois University President Al Goldfarb said Monday the school recently received a letter about the initiative.

"We are currently reviewing it, and we will be discussing it at length," Goldfarb said. "We are always interested in reducing binge drinking and excess alcohol consumption among our students; however, we have to fully review the proposal, as we do with anything that relates to our students."

Officials with Illinois State University and Illinois Central College could not be reached for comment.

Erinn Deshinsky can be reached at (309) 686-3112 oredeshinsky@pjstar.com. Jodi Pospeschil contributed to this story.