College presidents want lower drinking age

Supporters of changing the law say college students will drink no matter what, but do so more dangerously when it's illegal.

Supporters of changing the law say college students will drink no matter what, but do so more dangerously when it

RALEIGH, North Carolina — College presidents from about 100 of the best-known U.S. universities, including Duke, Dartmouth and Ohio State, are calling on lawmakers to consider lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18, saying current laws actually encourage dangerous binge drinking on campus.

The movement called the Amethyst Initiative began quietly recruiting presidents more than a year ago to provoke national debate about the U.S. drinking age, which is among the highest in the world.

“This is a law that is routinely evaded,” said John McCardell, former president of Middlebury College in Vermont who started the organization. “It is a law that the people at whom it is directed believe is unjust and unfair and discriminatory.”

Other prominent schools in the group include Syracuse, Tufts, Colgate, Kenyon and Morehouse.

But even before the presidents begin the public phase of their efforts, which may include publishing newspaper ads in the coming weeks, they are already facing sharp criticism.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving says lowering the drinking age would lead to more fatal car crashes. It accuses the presidents of misrepresenting science and looking for an easy way out of an inconvenient problem. MADD officials are even urging parents to think carefully about the safety of colleges whose presidents have signed on.

“It’s very clear the 21-year-old drinking age will not be enforced at those campuses,” said Laura Dean-Mooney, national president of MADD.

Both sides agree alcohol abuse by college students is a huge problem.

Research has found more than 40% of college students reported at least one symptom of alcohol abuse or dependance. One study has estimated more than 500,000 full-time students at four-year colleges suffer injuries each year related in some way to drinking, and about 1,700 die in such accidents.

A recent Associated Press analysis of federal records found that 157 college-age people, 18 to 23, drank themselves to death from 1999 through 2005.

Moana Jagasia, a Duke University sophomore from Singapore, where the drinking age is lower, said reducing the age in the U.S. could be helpful.

“There isn’t that much difference in maturity between 21 and 18,” she said. “If the age is younger, you’re getting exposed to it at a younger age, and you don’t freak out when you get to campus.”

McCardell’s group takes its name from ancient Greece, where the purple gemstone amethyst was widely believed to ward off drunkenness if used in drinking vessels and jewelry. He said college students will drink no matter what, but do so more dangerously when it’s illegal.

The statement the presidents have signed avoids calling explicitly for a younger drinking age. Rather, it seeks “an informed and dispassionate debate” over the issue and the federal highway law that made 21 the de facto national drinking age by denying money to any state that bucks the trend.

But the statement makes clear the signers think the current law isn’t working, citing a “culture of dangerous, clandestine binge-drinking,” and noting that while adults under 21 can vote and enlist in the military, they “are told they are not mature enough to have a beer.” Furthermore, “by choosing to use fake IDs, students make ethical compromises that erode respect for the law.”

But some college administrators sharply disagree that lowering the drinking age would help. University of Miami President Donna Shalala, who served as secretary of health and human services under President Bill Clinton, declined to sign.

“I remember college campuses when we had 18-year-old drinking ages, and I honestly believe we’ve made some progress,” Shalala said in a telephone interview. “To just shift it back down to the high schools makes no sense at all.”

Another scholar who has extensively researched college binge-drinking also criticized the presidents’ initiative.

“I understand why colleges are doing it, because it splits their students, and they like to treat them all alike rather than having to card some of them. It’s a nuisance to them,” said Henry Wechsler of the Harvard School of Public Health.

But, “I wish these college presidents sat around and tried to work out ways to deal with the problem on their campus rather than try to eliminate the problem by defining it out of existence,” he said.


I would very much agree with the last sentence of this article. However it seems more and more everyday we as a society and in this Country look for the easy way out. It now appears that even or scholar in academia have grown fat, lazy, and tired as well.

I am thirty five years old and have argued for many years that it is unfair that we should call eighteen year olds adults, allow them to vote, and to join the military, go off to war, and kill. However I think it is ridiculous calling eighteen year olds adults. There is nothing adult about them. I  believe while it may not be popular that the voting age and age to join the military should actually be twenty one as well.

Eighteen year olds are not responsible enough nor have enough experience to make some of the decisions we allow them to make or give them by law. I love when they vote, ask most of them about the issues and they can’t tell you much if anything about them. They vote for who is popular like their contests in high school.

Well excuse me but I care about the issues and who gets elected that may have an impact on, about, or dealing with those issues. These kids and yes thats what they are and if you’re 18 and reading this you are a kid whether you like that or not. They aren’t effected by their votes like we true adults are, you remember we who pay the SCHOOL TAXES, PROPERTY TAXES, COUNTY, STATE, FEDERAL, AND EVERY OTHER TAX! They don’t pay nor have to worry about the outcome of the election, why? Because their not adults, they don’t won property, have to work for a living, or have any true responsibilities.

They are far to young to send off to war as well. Before you open your mouth I served my country and know what I am talking about on this issue as I have served with and around many of them. They are not ready nor should they be asked to take the life of another humane being. God knows I have killed more than my share as I was in the First Gulf War, Bosnia, Somalia, and Kosovo. Killing someone no matter how many times you do it or far whatever reason never gets easier, and anyone who says so has either never done it, or is already a psychopath. I am still haunted to this day for what I had to do and the lives I took.

So let’s lower the drinking age. Let’s not do what we should and ENFORCE it. NO, let’s look for the easy damn way out and what about the other eighteen year olds, you know the ones still in high school. This wonderfully stupid law would apply to and allow them to drink as well, not just the eighteen year olds in college. Now think about that for a minute as you sit back and think lowering the drinking age is still a good idea.


~ by Digory Kirke on August 19, 2008.

One Response to “College presidents want lower drinking age”

  1. I have to say that maybe we should make Drinking age 25. The legal age of “Adulthood” should also be raised. Even at twenty one you still aren’t at that level of Maturity. You haven’t paid much taxes, or understood politics. You also aren’t mature enough to understand and make a clear choice in joining the Military. An old Argument about 12 or 14 year old joining the colonial military isn’t quite that strong of an argument. These are different times, we are not desperate to form a nation. We do not need every male we can get. Not to mention now days females. 18 years of life does not prepare one for the duties to ones country. Nor does it present the unfairness of life. At 25 years, you really start grasping that you cannot just keep “jumping” from job to job. As that affects your future career; they look at that stuff you know. At 25 you really get a grasp of the issues facing the average American and not just yourself.

    So I definitely would advocate a HIGHER age for all these things.


    For voting – better understand of the issues, not just voting for “Celebrities”
    For Drinking – Understanding the true consequences.
    For Driving – Lower insurance rates, and a severe drop in hyperactive behaviors that usually translate into “Speeding”.
    For serving in the Military – You probably have to kill someone, and by this time in your life you are more able to handle it. But you will NEVER get used to it.

    You are just not old enough or mature enough at 18, believe me I know! I am 30 and realize that I did not have a strong grasp of life or of the issues facing my county!

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