With squinting eyes and a chuckling laugh, 47-year-old businessman Harvey Milzer fondly reflects on his days at CSU.
“Those were great years, you know, just being out on your own for the first time.”
Milzer graduated in 1977, and for four years he experienced Fort Collins at the peak of its liberal approach to dealing with alcohol and its consumption.
“There were 3.2 (percent alcohol) bars if you were 18, and of course College Days (a party) was the main event. People came from all over for that one. One year it didn’t go down, so my roommates and I decided to have it at our house on Remington and Laurel, and we shut about a 3 to 4 block radius down. The next morning, the chief of police knocks on my door and tells me to clean up everything, but he didn’t give us a ticket or anything,” said Milzer.
However, times have changed with the passing of a drinking age law in 1987 that officially made 21 the magic number. Along with the law came an increase in authorization for more police to patrol for underage offenders.
“We have become more aware of the damage that alcohol has on student lives,” said Bob Chaffee, a former CSU student and 25-year veteran of the CSU police force.
And of the notion that the police department must fill quotas, Chaffee simply laughs.
“No…our goal is to keep students safe so they can be successful.”
As the new school year begins, campus police prepared for students to throw and attend keg parties despite consistent pressure from the police force.
“We know they’re on the hunt for us, but we’re going to try to make the best memories we can,” said junior business major Nick Garver. “Just because I’m underage doesn’t automatically make me irresponsible. Personally, I just wish College Days didn’t fade out.”
But irresponsible students are precisely what brought upon the change in state and school policy, Chaffee said. Too many bar fights, vandalism and alcohol-related accidents called for a drastic change, he said.
“The state awarded a substantial funding increase for highways if the law were to be passed,” said Student Health Counselor Pam McCracken. “There has been a substantial decrease in alcohol-related deaths since the law went into effect.”
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, alcohol-related fatalities have nationally decreased from 25,165 in 1982 to 17,859 in 1992.
However, the law and the statistics concerning fatalities aren’t the only differences from the past to the present, Chaffee acknowledges that some harm has been accentuated by the changes.
“Binge drinking has increased and has led to more people heading to detox.”
Still, some students say it is undeniable that students, underage or not, will be out drinking and looking for those memories cemented by alcohol.
“People drank in the past, people drink right now, and they’re going to drink in the future,” Garver said.