College Drinking Accident

8/25/2008 Merced, CA, USA University officials say 18-year-old Sydney Hickman had been drinking with friends when she climbed a stairway banister and tried to slide down.

Drinking and college go hand in hand for many experiencing life away from home for the first time. A new push called the Amethyst Initiative looks at lowering the drinking age to 18, the idea that public policy should reflect reality.

Friends say 18 year old Sydney Hickman was drinking before she fell over the side of this balcony, hit her head and fell on some bushes. Several people watched her tumble 10 feet.

Eric Bunnell, U.C. Merced student, says "What went through my mind was is she really trying to slide down the balcony right now. But she obviously her judgment was impaired and thought she could do it and when she fell everyone was in shock they didn't know what to do."

Witnesses say she was conscious when a helicopter took her to the hospital. Patti Waid Istas, U.C. Merced spokesperson, says "It's apparent it was related to alcohol and that's unfortunate because we work with students in the first month of school to remind them of the dangers of alcohol and drug use."

The accident and plenty of others at universities around the country has resurrected the debate about whether it would be more realistic to lower the drinking age. Paul Oliaro is in charge of student affairs at Fresno State, he's also the chair on an alcohol safety council.

Oliaro says no way should Fresno State go along with the Amethyst Initiative. "In fact, I have worked on campuses in the past where the drinking age was 18 and there are all kinds of problems with over consumption, parties on campus, difficulty controlling campus events involving alcohol and it was not a very good scene for the campus or for many students who got intoxicated and found themselves in some real difficulty."

Several students agree. Julia Echevesta, Fresno State Senior, "There are kids already now under the age drinking and you can see where that's leading so I don't see anything positive coming from that."

Broc Becker, Fresno State Freshman, says "I don't think they should we already have enough to deal with being new students and there's just one more thing everyone's gonna have to worry about. Especially young students they need to stay focused if they want to get a head start."

Last year a U.C. Merced student died on campus when he fell and hit his head on concrete. Hector Barrera Barraza had also been drinking before the accident.

Now the Alcohol Safety Council at Fresno State debated the Amethyst Initiative a few weeks ago and decided to ask President John Welty to fight against lowering the drinking age.


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