College Presidents Push for Drinking Age to be Lowered to 18

By Bajeda · Aug 19, 2008 · ·
  1. Bajeda
    College presidents seek drinking age debate

    They are calling on lawmakers to consider moving age back to 18

    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.

    Injuries, deaths from alcohol abuse
    Both sides agree alcohol abuse by college students is a huge problem.
    Research has found more than 40 percent of college students reported at least one symptom of alcohol abuse or dependence. 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."

    Shifting burden to high schools
    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, he added, "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."


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  1. fiveleggedrat
    Absolutely ridiculous.

    Underage drinking does not need to become legalized, and people need to be taught alcohol is a DRUG and not a beverage.

    Why are college presidents not pushing for marijuana to be legal?

    America has a big enough alcohol problem already. Swim is 19, and KNOWS the legal age does not need to go down.

    Perhaps only if all other drugs were accessible at age 18, then Swim would not complain.
  2. cra$h
    swim posted the same thing while the report on cnn was still on. must have beat me by seconds....

    if this is passed, it'll go like this:
    everyone from 18-20 is going to go nuts, and hook up all of their younger friends, then there's going to be an underage drinking SPIKE, and law enforcement's going to love it. People will complain, police tell congressmen about all of the revenue they're making, and nothing gets done for about 5 years. This is when kids start to get used to the new drinking age, and we end up almost in the same place. But with the states making a little more money.
    All of the 18yr olds I know would feel awkward drinking with their parents, and don't want to abuse their "privilage" and get shitfaced and irresponsible. But it would cut down on binge drinkers, who want to get their couple of drinks in real fast, and then go do whatever. Plus not everyone gets hammered when they drink. The reason why teens get wasted is because they don't want to waste a precious oppertunity of personal freedom. Let them go to a bar whenever, and they'll become much more responsible.
  3. Bajeda
    More like 10.5 hours or so, but whos counting? :p

    I'm not sure how I feel about this anymore.

    I see younger kids in other countries with more liberal alcohol laws who are more responsible (not saying they all are), but then I see other countries with liberal alcohol laws full of alcoholics.

    Recalling the study that found no correlation between the intensity of prohibition and the level of drug use, I think it would be a similar situation so far as alcohol is concerned. Social and cultural factors play a much more decisive role, and what with the whole college binge drinking atmosphere and all the commercial hype building up alcohol in this almost mystical substance, it almost feels like its so engrained in our culture that we can't do much to change things. Lack of extensive public transport facilities and the fact that people in the US drive quite a bit makes this a higher risk factor for drunk driving, but to what extent I do not know. Higher penalties for DUIs / DWIs would have to be raised, and better yet, the entire system redone as it has glaring problems in some states at the moment.

    Any other opinions on this?
  4. cra$h
    I guess my time really is a lot slower than everyone elses....haha

    Where swim lives, there's literally no public transportation, and has far less crime than towns that do. The reason is that you get poor people from the city who pay their ticket to a nice suburban neighborhood, they get off the bus, and jack a car to get home. Not everyone sees this, but it's what happens.

    And I agree that it's the social mentality that determines how a substance is percieved, and at college it's all about getting shitfaced off a 30ft beer bong. But if the laws are changed, it could potentially changed the outlook on how college students percieve alcohol. And after all of the 18 year olds who got "lucky" and were allowed to drink get out of school, you'll have a generation who finds alcohol something that's just there, and no need to binge with it, but to just.......chill. Plus a chillin drunk is much more ejoyable/controlable versus a 10 shot binge when you wake up on the roof with puke all over yourself.
  5. Zentaurus41
    I beleive in the uk they actualy want to put the age up to 21, with many places like tescos already have this in force. The way things are over here i think it should be 21, hopefull it would keep the yobs of the street.

    Though when i was in the states, i found it to be very strict, nowhere would serve me without my passport and I am 30.
  6. Panthers007
    This story made National News in the USA tonight (look at date-stamp). It's all over TV. MADD (Mothers Against Drunken Drivers) is the only voice of opposition at present. Expect a royal shit-fest to follow.
  7. Lethargy
    We heard this story on the radio and one of the opposition said that it would "Do little or nothing to effect the problem"

    Which to us sounds like a great reason to do it. If lowering the drinking age won't change binge drinking or drunk driving, then why not?
  8. ShawnD
    My group, Drunk Drivers Against Mad Mothers, believes that all members of MADD are retarded.

    I absolutely agree. When I was a teenager, I hated feeling pressured to drink as much as possible and be involved in drinking games. I like alcohol, but I sure as hell don't like being drunk or playing drinking games, and yet I was constantly in a situation where I either drink until puking, or be that fag who doesn't drink. Only after I got a car was I able to have a valid excuse for drinking just 1 beer, or maybe 2, depending on how long the gathering lasts.
  9. MiMoMo
    SWIM's cynical supposition is that the colleges would prefer to lower the drinking age in order to avoid exposure to potential liabilities from underage drinking accidents on uni properties. Alcohol related fatalities approaching 2000 deaths per year along with about half a million students injured while drunk all must translate to some screaming insurance coverage costs. Perhaps a universal freshman curriculum requirement might be enrollment in Drug Forum membership as mandatory risk reduction education!
  10. Purest
    Dinosaur was very shocked to be asked if he was 21 the other day when buying a crate of beer, currently in the UK they're pushing stores to check IDs for anyone they think may be under 21, 25 in some stores, purely because telling between 17 and 18 year olds is generally quite difficult. Also a lot of places will require everyone in a group to provide ID.
    Back to the topic, it makes sense that colleges would want the drinking age dropped, since turning 18 the dinosaur finds himself binge drinking a lot less, and alcohol has become more of a social thing. Colleges can do like the universities over here with union bars where they don't allow people to get too drunk after freshers week, and get people used to drinking socially.
    I disagree with cra$h saying 18 year olds would feel awkward drinking with their parents, when you're brought up with the idea of 18 is legal to drink, it doesn't seem odd to drink with your parents when you hit that age.
  11. Pondlife
    This is the UK "Think 21" scheme, which involves checking ID for anyone who looks under 21. The legal age is still 18, but as purest said this is done so there is less danger of selling to someone who is underage.

    The reason shops do this is because they can lose their alcohol sales license if they sell to under 18's, and the local authorities sometimes send under 18's in to do "test purchases" to try and catch them out.

    They do take it to extremes though. I'm routinely asked if I'm over 21 when I'm at the counter, often with my teenage daughter in tow. I take it as a compliment.
  12. Lobsang
    I think the idea of a 21 year old drinking age is complete nonsense. A person is legally an adult at 18. Therefore it is a violation of their rights not to allow them to drink if they want. The primary rights of the individual must superceed any negative social consequences. Hell if you are going to look at social consequences then why not raise it tp 30? Why not restrict drinking only to women over 30 in fact? And by the way I also think minors should be allowed to drink if their parents say so.
  13. Stephenwolf
    i think it would be similar to if pot were legalized, there would be a spike in use
    and then it would dwindle, most 18 year olds Already drink, many 15 year olds already drink, if the drinking age was changed all that would change is a chance to use more responsibly, a younger person wouldn't need to slam down a 5th of vodka really quick because this might be the only time they could get alcohol that week/month/whatever...
    if they could have a beer whenever they wanted they'd want it less after a while...that logic isn't foolproof or anything, i know some people who binge and drink excessively even though can buy it whenever and are in their 30's... it happens... but it'll happen even if the drinking age was 30.

    Besides if a person can go to war and get SHOT at 18, why can't they have a beer to calm their nerves after getting shot at? If a person can choose to assist in developing lung cancer at 18 it only makes since that alcohol should also be available.
  14. cra$h
    now tell that to a conservitive, and they'll instinctivly say alcohol is no way to solve your problem, and if you have people drinking to solve their problems, they'll become abusive alcoholics! But they're brainwashed to believe that everyone can be solved through the same method.
  15. curious1
    Swim would drink with his parents. And something interesting is the fact that it is legal in NY State to drink with your parents/guardians consent.
    A person can also legally attempt to buy alcohol IF they do not use a fake id.
    And they can also carry alcohol again with the parents/guardians consent.

    If one were to look at the state laws they may find that the minors there can drink depending on the situation.

    The real question is can a parent give consent to a 18/19/20 yo living out of the house?:s
  16. cra$h
    In PA, kids can't even help their parents carry a case from the store to the car. It's fucking rediculous.
  17. purplehaze
    Ha, were i live (alabama) if someone goes in the beer store with me they get IDed, if they aren't 21 then I can't buy beer from there. I have to go somewere else and they can't go in with me.
  18. Purest
    They have similar initiatives in some supermarkets over in the UK. They will ID everyone in a group together if cigarettes or alcohol are bought, if any one person doesn't have ID they don't let anyone buy any age restricted products. It does make sense to a degree, as its a fellony to supply alcohol to someone underage.
  19. newgrower
    I would like to see the age lowered to 18.

    I have to think as a parent on this one because I don't even get IDed anymore. I could defend 18 to my children but don't feel like I can defend 21 as the age. So in my mind, if I have a chance to get them to wait until 18, then I have a chance to help them to learn to drink responsibly.

    I'm sure I'll have a few beers with them and talk to them about how to keep from drinking to much before sending them off to college regardless of the legal age. But I think I have a better chance of being able to do this if the age is 18.

    But if the age is 21, which in my mind is unreasonable, then it becomes a drink whenever you can get your hands on it type of thing - behind my back. Where if its 18, it seems like its easier to put off at 16 or 17 since you're not too far away.
  20. chillinwill
    Here is another article:

    COLLEGE OFFICIALS who have signed on to the provocative proposition that the legal drinking age of 21 isn't working say that they just want to start a debate. Perhaps when they get done with that, they can move on to whether Earth really orbits the sun. Any suggestion that the current drinking age hasn't saved lives runs counter to the facts.

    More than 100 presidents and chancellors from such top universities as Duke and Johns Hopkins say it's time to rethink the drinking age, contending it has caused "a culture of dangerous, clandestine 'binge-drinking.' " The statement does not specifically advocate reducing the drinking age, but many who signed it say they thought legal drinking should begin at 18.

    Health and safety experts have reacted with dismay, because raising the drinking age has saved many lives. In 2001, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed 49 studies published in scientific journals and concluded that alcohol-related traffic crashes involving young people increased 10 percent when the drinking age was lowered in the 1970s and decreased 16 percent when the drinking age was raised. The retreat from a lower drinking age translates into some 900 lives saved each year among 16- to 20-year-olds. Those who would argue that other factors, such as safer cars, are responsible should take a good look at numbers posted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving showing alcohol-related traffic fatalities among 16- to 20-year-olds decreasing 60 percent between 1982 and 2006 while non-alcohol-related fatalities increased 34 percent.

    The college presidents are right about binge drinking. Each year, some 1,700 college students die from causes related to alcohol use; there is also the toll of injuries and sexual assaults fueled by alcohol. But where is the logic of solving the underage drinking problem by lowering the age even more? Henry Wechsler, the Harvard expert whose studies of binge drinking popularized the phrase, put it best, comparing lowering the drinking age to "pouring gasoline to put the fire out."

    Work by experts such as Mr. Wechsler, as well as the experience of college officials committed to solutions, shows that strong steps to enforce the law and change the culture can produce results. Instead of talking about lowering the drinking age (and thereby shifting the problem to high schools), colleges should be working to develop better enforcement methods, expand education and counseling, and end pricing practices that make alcohol more accessible and attractive. Then, too, college officials can stop winking at fraternity bashes that, whether they are willing to admit it or not, add to the allure of going off to college.
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