College Presidents Want to Lower Drinking Age
Special Report - August 29, 2008
A group of 129 college and university presidents has signed a public statement that seeks an open debate about lowering the drinking age from 21 years of age to 18. The college and university presidents say that the 21 year-old drinking age is not working, and, specifically, that it has created a culture of dangerous binge drinking on their campuses, according to the group’s website.
The 21 year-old drinking age was established nationally in 1984 when Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act. It imposed a penalty of 10 percent of a state's federal highway appropriation on any state setting its drinking age lower than 21. That effectively led to a national standard. Now, twenty-four years later, this group of college and university presidents believes that the legal limit of 21 is not working. They argue, “Adults under 21 are deemed capable of voting, signing contracts, serving on juries and enlisting in the military, but are told they are not mature enough to have a beer,” and that “[b]y choosing to use fake IDs, students make ethical compromises that erode respect for the law.”
The Amethyst Initiative, as the group has been named, calls upon elected officials
“to support an informed and dispassionate public debate over the effects of the 21 year-old drinking age; to consider whether the 10 percent highway fund ‘incentive’ encourages or inhibits that debate; and to invite new ideas about the best ways to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol.” The college presidents and chancellors also pledge themselves and their institutions to “playing a vigorous, constructive role as these critical discussions unfold.”
The group was started in 2007 by John McCardell, former president of Middlebury College in Vermont, who stated that those who are affected by the 21 year-old drinking age believe that it is “unjust, unfair and discriminatory.” The Amethyst Initiative is named after the gemstone amethyst, which the ancient Greeks believed guarded them from drunkenness when used in drinking vessels and jewelry. The group is apparently applying Greek superstition to underage drinking.
The only university presidents in North Carolina to sign the statement are Richard Brodhead of Duke University and John J. Bowen of Johnson & Wales University. Other prominent colleges and universities whose presidents have signed the statement include Hampden-Sydney, Johns Hopkins, Ohio State, Smith, Sweetbriar, Syracuse, Texas A&M, Tufts, and Washington & Lee.
“Essentially these college and university presidents are arguing that because they cannot effectively enforce the law on their campuses, alcohol should be legalized for 18 to 20 year-olds,” said North Carolina Family Policy Council attorney, Tami Fitzgerald. “We should never legalize activities just because some people are lawbreakers. As a parent, I would be hesitant to send my children to a school whose leader has shown such disregard for the health and safety of students and those who will be affected by allowing less mature students to drink legally.”
Copyright © 2008. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.