The Land Grant Mission
I have just finished reading the President’s Perspective in the fall issue and want to congratulate President Ramaley on her understanding of the land grant college and the land grant mission. Few of our former presidents have articulated the mission as concisely as she, if indeed they agreed with her interpretation.

For at least a quarter century, most faculty and administrators of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences have recognized the need for their students to enroll in a significant number of courses in the liberal arts and other disciplines. I don’t know what present curricula require, but when I retired, courses required and elected outside of the college often comprised more than half of the students’ programs. Unfortunately, students in other colleges of the university, and especially in Arts and Sciences, were restricted in the number of courses they could enroll in outside of their college, or, if not so restricted, were not encouraged to enroll in courses in other colleges.

If these restrictions and attitudes still persist, it seems to me that they seriously limit our ability to, in President Ramaley’s words, “carefully introduce our students to the strengths and limitations of each domain of knowledge as well as the contents and methodologies of different disciplines….”

Robert O. Sinclair
UVM Professor and Dean Emeritus
Tucson, Arizona


One Alum’s Wish List
The 1960s article “Dissent on Campus” made me reflect on the 40 years since I graduated. This reflection caused me to generate a wish list for UVM.
I wish:
Presidents were called Deans.
We played football.
We played baseball.
Kakewalk was back.
The university held alcohol abuse seminars.
There were mandatory university courses for all.
Fraternities and sororities comprised at least 25 percent of the student body.
The men of The Boulder Society were the undergraduate leaders on campus.
Students and faculty knew about the Boulder spirit.
There were university course requirements in architecture, wine, good music (classical), and civics.
There were more professors and fewer instructors.
Campus leaders had responsibility and authority.
There was less preoccupation with political correctness.
UVM would admit whoever can be academically successful — period.
There was NROTC on campus.
Seminars on treatment of fellow classmates.
Undergraduate leadership opportunities could be maximized.
It is possible to develop a high sense of discipline among the undergraduate body.

James W. Cutler, Jr. ’59
Killingworth, Connecticut


Lowering the drinking age
Dr. Ruth Engs wrote a very provocative article in the winter edition of the Vermont Quarterly that leaves me wondering where she obtained her information that leads her to believe that the drinking age should be lowered to eighteen. She quotes research that shows “a continuous decrease in drinking and driving related variables which has paralleled the nation’s, and also university students’, decrease in per capita consumption,” and that these decreases “started in 1980 before the national 1987 law which mandated states to set the legal purchase age at twenty-one.” She goes on to argue that the current age of majority should be lowered to eighteen or nineteen.

May I remind her that prior to 1987, the collected wisdom of the United States was to lower the drinking age to eighteen so as to eliminate the need to drive to neighboring states to consume alcohol, and encourage responsible local drinking among our youth. The results of this thoughtful liberalization was unprecedented carnage on the roads of our youth who bought alcohol locally and went to neighboring states to party. The increase of death by auto was so dramatic and terrifying that the majority of state legislatures endorsed the return to the twenty-one age limit.

A professor of Applied Health Science at Indiana University should get her history correct before she advocates return to the past and is forced to relive some very unpleasant events. I, for one, soundly oppose a return to a younger age limit for alcohol. On the other hand, I do agree that we need a new culture concerning alcohol, and that Europe does show us an excellent model.

Unfortunately, the alcohol culture is so ingrained in our culture that it will take at least two generations to alter it. Let’s alter it and change the thinking, before we tragically alter the next generation with intolerable highway driving alcohol related events.

Joel I. Bessoff, MD ’65


Professor Ruth Engs replies:
I appreciate Dr. Bessoff’s comments as he is representative of many individuals who are not familiar with the sociological and historical research literature that often does not support popular opinion. He might be interested in reading my body of research from over the past twenty-five years as my conclusions and recommendations in my Vermont Quarterly piece are based upon this and other studies. Many of my publications can be found on

In addition, I have a new book which will be out later this year, published by Praeger, entitled Clean Living Movements: American Cycles of Health Reform, which also addresses alcohol prohibition from a perspective of more than two hundred years.

Since 1987, when the alcohol purchase laws were raised, there has been an increase in various social, personal, and legal problems related to alcohol use among college students.The only area where there has been continuous decrease has been in the area of drinking and driving.The raising of the drinking age has resulted in drinking in unsupervised settings such as off-campus student housing among youth under twenty-one years of age. These students are exhibiting heavy drinking and rebelling against the law – as individuals often do when something is prohibited – due to reactance. The more we clamp down the worse the situation is likely to get, as was found in the 1920s.

Therefore, to avoid increasing problems, based upon sociological and historical research, I recommend that the drinking age be lowered for youth to obtain alcohol in supervised and controlled settings only. This would allow them to learn by role modeling responsible and moderate behaviors. In other words, youth would not be allowed to buy beer in off-premise stores to take home. They would only be allowed to consume alcohol in restaurants, taverns, pubs, and would be expected to exhibit responsible behaviors. Social and/or legal sanctions would be carried out against those who consumed alcohol in an irresponsible or dangerous manner. Certain restrictions such as being a state resident, a student at a university, or even a license to drink that had an educational component could be implemented.

In addition, we need to develop, as suggested by Dr. Bessoff, a more continental attitude towards alcohol

Professor Ruth Engs ’61
Professor of Applied Health Sciences
Indiana University


Addressing Alcohol
I am so proud of UVM and the fact that they are among other universities who are addressing the subject of alcohol abuse among college students.

I never found alcohol to be any part of my four-year college experience at UVM. I abstained completely, having been raised in a family that was opposed to drinking. It never occurred to me that alcohol would be a part of my college “education.” In fact, during my college years, my heart sank one morning when I awoke to learn that a member of a fraternity on campus had been found dead after a night of drinking. I felt so badly, especially for his parents and family who must now face this tragedy: a son whose life was lost because of alcohol.

It is reassuring to know and I commend the many groups who are collaborating to help resolve this pressing issue on college campuses. The results of their efforts will be realized in time.

My only desire is that this study would not only reach present and future students on college campuses, but it would also filter down into the families, the moms and dads, the grandparents, the siblings, aunts and uncles, and friends who have been, are, and will continue to be a strong influence on their lives. We cannot hold the students or participating groups entirely responsible for a successful outcome of this unfortunate situation on college campuses without families setting a good example in the first place.

Florence S. White ’43
Oneonta, New York


The cover photo on the Winter 1999 issue captured my immediate attention and I abandoned my normal habit of reading Class Notes first in favor of reading every article regarding alcohol abuse among students and UVM’s efforts to deal with that challenge. And a great challenge it is. The road will be long, winding, steep and often slippery but recognition and admission of the problem are the two requisite first steps toward resolution.

I am not inferring that a significant correlation exists among sports, student drinking and alumni behavior. However it is interestingly descriptive of our culture to realize that, unless one goes to Gutterson Arena in Burlington or to Meg’s house in Overland, Kansas, the telecast of our Hockey Cats vs. Cornell can be viewed only in breweries, pubs, and sports bars across the nation.


Roger A. Rivers ’58


I read with interest your most recent issue based on my own experience, and the concern for my oldest son who is experiencing firsthand the freedoms associated with college life.

I first enrolled at UVM in the fall of 1975 and promptly obtained a membership in the Friday Afternoon Drinking Club (FADC). A typical week included going to a Burlington bar on Thursday night, the FADC Friday afternoon, and partying at a dorm, fraternity, or local bar on both Friday and Saturday nights. Needless to say, three consecutive days of drinking did not fit in well with my studies, and I began to miss assignments and stopped attending class. I left UVM in the fall of 1976 having failed miserably as a student and as a person. Eventually, I returned to complete my degree at UVM as a non-traditional student, but it just wasn’t the same. I regret the first go round and hope that my son doesn’t repeat my mistakes.

It is important for UVM to take a stand on the issue of drinking. It is an uphill battle because so much of our culture depends on drinking as a way to socialize. How ironic it is that in your own magazine devoted to college alcoholism, the Alumni Office runs an advertisement to attend a UVM hockey game at your favorite local bar. The photos of satisfied alumni all show them smiling with drinks in hand! I think that the hill is very steep.

Lastly, I would encourage UVM to adopt John Bramley’s idea of notifying parents of a student who abuses drugs or alcohol. Young people with problem behavior need help and are not likely to seek it on their own. Who better to help them than those who love them most. Don’t be afraid to involve all who can help. It isn’t an education that is at stake, it is a life.

Robert K. Mullen ’84


I read with great interest the articles in the Winter 1999 issue, including your editorial. As a recovering alcoholic who drank my way through UVM, I was glad to see this problem is being taken seriously. I have been sober 23 years. Even after all this time my lack of good grades and the wonderful opportunities I missed will haunt me. I cannot go back, but I can assure any of the students that are doing what I did while I was there, that getting sober is the smart thing. Do not wait until it is too late. UVM offers so much that it is a shame to miss it because of intoxication, hangovers etc. I am looking forward to followup on these fine articles. I would be glad to contribute if you decide to do something using alum experience. Thank you.

Susan B. Nestler ’68


Congratulations on the excellent “Sobering Facts” feature in the winter issue of Vermont Quarterly. I will share it with “The Ohio 36” project directors at their meeting later this month. “The Ohio 36” is a coalition of four-year colleges and universities working together to address binge drinking via the environmental public health focus on changing campus and community cultures.

The Ohio Binge Drinking Prevention Initiative began in 1996 with 19 participants. It has grown to 36 institutions members, 10 public and 26 private. Each college forms a campus/community coalition; assesses the existing culture, issues, and challenges; establishes and implements an action plan; and actively shares with fellow coalition members. Funding for administrative support has been through the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services, the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention and Ohio Parents for Drug Free Youth.

The Vermont Quarterly, by stating clearly and openly the student alcohol use/abuse situation at UVM and the steps being taken to address the issue, has taken an important step in alerting and including the whole university “family.” Thank you!

Constance Frisbie Block ’65
College Binge Drinking Prevention Project Director, Columbus, Ohio


Good morning! Always nice to get your publication and be reminded of some formative times!

This particular issue, however, contains one glaring incongruity. In among the several articles discussing the alcohol situation on campus — termed a “problem” — what should appear in the ad for UVM hockey on page 27, but students (presumably) gathered to watch the game (presumably) around a table laden with what appear to be empty glasses nestled in their napkins.

I’m well aware that alcohol can be enjoyed in moderation (although many college students are still discovering what that means in practical real-world terms) and that the major responsibility rests on the individual to regulate themselves. I also recognize that sponsorship (in various guises) of some sports derives from alcohol-related industries and they deserve an opportunity to advertise.

However, I feel you made an unfortunate selection of imagery to go with that ad. Why couldn’t you have found a photo without all those glasses in such prominent view? Obviously, these kids have been “at it” pretty enthusiastically! Hardly consistent from the university’s perspective explored throughout the bulk of the rest of this issue.

At least the other photo highlights camaraderie with the beer glasses barely visible in two of the young men’s hands, while the other man is not shown with any drink. Of course, staging lets a photographer set up the image any way he wants…but my concern here is the image that makes it to the printed page, however “contrived.”

In my estimation, you blew it this time.
For all the good info you’ve disseminated and the discussions you’ve stimulated in general, I’m pleased with VQ. Nothing’s perfect, but a little more attention to editorial details in toto when presenting a topical issue would seem to be in order.

Wishing you continued success in the new year.

Cheryl Flory ’77
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


I just received the Winter issue of the Vermont Quarterly and, as usual, great job. The articles on alcohol abuse are great, and President Ramaley’s Perspective is refreshing, and thank you, John Bramley.

However, it’s unfortunate that the centerfold shows the “UVM Hockey Face-Off ’99” and the first thing we see is the party and beer on page 27. OOPS! Wrong magazine and definitely the wrong issue to show those pictures! Hope they’re of age.

By the way, to the guy in the back with the pom-pom on his head drinking milk-way to go.

Glenn Rogers

You must be getting many comments about the wonderful article pertaining to too much drinking on campus. So, that explains why you would follow up two articles about this subject, without even giving the reader a chance to absorb the information, put an advertisement about the country-wide UVM Hockey Face-off ’99.

This must be the best way to keep the drunks away from the ice? Seventy-five percent, or more, of the games are to be televised at a sports BAR! Is this responsible journalism? Do the authors know you followed up their articles with a picture of seven people at a sports bars cheering on the Catamounts with drinks in hand?

How ironic.

Daniel and Heather Rideout


Your Winter 1999 issue, with its focus on college drinking, was aptly highlighted by two photos of inebriated college students, beers in hand and appropriately red-eyed, advertising the UVM Hockey Face-Off on page 27.

Amplifying the ironic juxtaposition of the photos of red-eyed UVM students (or perhaps recent alumni) carousing while watching the Catamount hockey team on satellite television at their favorite bar (contrasted with the overly serious articles in the rest of the magazine on student drinking and alcoholism in general) is the two-page list of three dozen sports bars across the country where UVMers can get drunk together while cheering on their school team.

Jim Collins ’67


Your series of articles in the Winter 1999 Quarterly concerning alcohol use and abuse on college campuses was very timely and thought-provoking. However, you missed the mark when you placed, immediately following the discussion of responsible alcohol use, an advertisement for the UVM Hockey Face-Off — held almost exclusively at bars and featuring photos of UVM alums with drinks in hand.

In her column, President Ramaley says the university has to take seriously the challenge of changing societal expectations about drinking. A little alert editing by your staff would have helped meet this challenge.

Cecile Owens Plattner ’80
Greenville, New York