June 25, 2015. The joke among University of Georgia (UGA) students has always been that when you graduate from UGA your diploma comes with a criminal record. It is almost impossible to attend UGA and not be arrested for underage drinking these days. You would be hard-pressed to find a student that has not been arrested and jailed for underage drinking. Trying to stop 18-20-year-old students from drinking is like trying to stop the wind from blowing. Most of the drinking and de-pressurizing from the pressures of the academically rigorous University of Georgia occurs in downtown Athens now that most of the Fraternities on campus have either been neutered, closed, or shamed out of existence. This means that instead of there being 30 or more house parties scattered across the town on a Friday or Saturday night, all of the action is concentrated 3 or 4 blocks in downtown Athens which is more reminiscent of Bourbon Street in New Orleans than the sleepy and mostly boarded-up downtown of the 1980s and early 1990s that birthed REM and the alternative music scene in the south. Police Officers stand on the street corners in packs of 3 and 4 and pick off students like fish in a barrel.
This may be changing as Athens-Clarke County Police are changing their policy on fingerprinting, taking mug shots, and jailing underage boys and girls apparently in response to new state-wide legislation according to OnlineAthens.com. Senate Bill 160, which was enacted by the Georgia legislature earlier this year, calls for citations rather than custodial arrests when people under 21 are charged with underage possession of alcohol and misrepresenting their ages or identities with fake IDs. This will be good news for Georgia college students who often have trouble getting jobs compared to their peers from out-of-state schools that take a more tolerant position on underage drinking.
-Author: George Creal