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100 College Presidents seek to get drinking age limit lowered from 21 to 18

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100 College Presidents seek to get drinking age limit lowered from 21 to 18

Old 08-18-08, 11:08 PM
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100 College Presidents seek to get drinking age limit lowered from 21 to 18

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080819/...YEUl9sdHADMQ--

College presidents seek debate on drinking age

By JUSTIN POPE, Associated Press Writer
2 hours, 4 minutes ago

College presidents from about 100 of the nation's best-known 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 drinking age.

"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 percent 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."

"I'm not sure where the dialogue will lead, but it's an important topic to American families and it deserves a straightforward dialogue," said William Troutt, president of Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., who has signed the statement.

But some other 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 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."

McCardell claims that his experiences as a president and a parent, as well as a historian studying Prohibition, have persuaded him the drinking age isn't working.

But critics say McCardell has badly misrepresented the research by suggesting that the decision to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21 may not have saved lives.

In fact, MADD CEO Chuck Hurley said, nearly all peer-reviewed studies looking at the change showed raising the drinking age reduced drunk-driving deaths. A survey of research from the U.S. and other countries by the Centers for Disease Control and others reached the same conclusion.

McCardell cites the work of Alexander Wagenaar, a University of Florida epidemiologist and expert on how changes in the drinking age affect safety. But Wagenaar himself sides with MADD in the debate.

The college presidents "see a problem of drinking on college campuses, and they don't want to deal with it," Wagenaar said in a telephone interview. "It's really unfortunate, but the science is very clear."

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.

Duke faced accusations of ignoring the heavy drinking that formed the backdrop of 2006 rape allegations against three lacrosse players. The rape allegations proved to be a hoax, but the alcohol-fueled party was never disputed.

Duke senior Wey Ruepten said university officials should accept the reality that students are going to drink and give them the responsibility that comes with alcohol.

"If you treat students like children, they're going to act like children," he said.

Duke President Richard Brodhead declined an interview request. But he wrote in a statement on the Amethyst Initiative's Web site that the 21-year-old drinking age "pushes drinking into hiding, heightening its risks." It also prevents school officials "from addressing drinking with students as an issue of responsible choice."

Hurley, of MADD, has a different take on the presidents.

"They're waving the white flag," he said.

___

Associated Press Writer Barbara Rodriguez contributed to this report from Durham, N.C.

___

On the net:

http://www.amethystinitiative.org

(This version CORRECTS the spelling of Rhodes College president's last name to Troutt, instead of Trout.)

I would be interested to know if the percentage of students drinking heavily is higher or lower now, compared to 30 years ago?

And for the record, I never went to college and I never drink until after I turned 21 (personal choice). But I sure made up for it during those 1st 6 months.

Chris
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Old 08-19-08, 02:28 AM
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Sounds great to me. Thin the herd.
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Old 08-19-08, 07:19 AM
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Originally Posted by mrpayroll View Post
[url]I would be interested to know if the percentage of students drinking heavily is higher or lower now, compared to 30 years ago?

And for the record, I never went to college and I never drink until after I turned 21 (personal choice). But I sure made up for it during those 1st 6 months.

Chris
I attended college in Boston beginning in 1962. The law was 21, but it was widely ignored, both in fraternity parties, and bars and liquor stores. If your wallet could reach over the counter, you were 21.

It was probably good that traffic and parking problems kept most of us from having cars.

Some time after I graduated the law was lowered to 18 for a while. My recollection is during the 70's but I didn't bother to look up details. Drunk-driving deaths soared among 18-21 year olds, leading to pressure to return the drinking age to 21.

Prior to the initial lowering, I know New York had a lower age (18) for a long time. I don't know if their traffic death record during the nationwide 21 --> 18 --> 21 change shows anything interesting.

But the way to study it is to look at the effective dates of the prior law changes and accident rates plotted against those dates.
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Old 08-19-08, 07:32 AM
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When I was a teenager, the legal drinking age was 19.
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Old 08-19-08, 07:44 AM
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5,321 bar owners seek to get drinking age lowered from 21-18.
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Old 08-19-08, 07:46 AM
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Can we raise the driving age to 21 then?
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Old 08-19-08, 07:48 AM
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I'd lower the drinking age to 16 for beer, 21 for hard liquor, and raise the minimum driving age to 18.
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Old 08-19-08, 07:49 AM
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From personal experience, I think this makes sense. I live in one of the highest binge drinking areas in the country, and I know when I was in college, people would drink much heavier when in the dorms/at house parties. That said, I have no idea if the benefit of reducing binge drinking would necessarily outweigh the potentially increased problems in bars/in public. Honestly I think maybe 16 or 17 would be better, so kids could learn their lessons at home(maybe just beer/wine, and just home/restaurants with parents or something), but there are plenty of problems with that as well I suppose.
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Old 08-19-08, 07:50 AM
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Why this difference between beer & hard liquor?

I don't understand it.
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Old 08-19-08, 07:50 AM
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18 should be the age for everything.....

...except consent.
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Old 08-19-08, 08:06 AM
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I wonder if universities can get credit card level money from the beer producers to advertise heavily on campus.
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Old 08-19-08, 08:09 AM
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Originally Posted by classicman2 View Post
Why this difference between beer & hard liquor?

I don't understand it.
It seems the kids around here tend to get to the death level of drinking off of shots of the hard stuff. Yes you can get insanely drunk off of beer and wine, but it is much easier to do with hard liquor.
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Old 08-19-08, 08:14 AM
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I don't see lowering the age having much effect on college campuses, other than less arrests for underage drinking. I do see it having an effect on high school age kids, just because it'd be much, much easier to score booze if you just had to buddy up to a senior. For that reason, I doubt we'll see the age change. I do think it's bullshit someone can sign up to potentially die for this country, but not have a beer. It'd be nice if the age to serve and the age to be served were the same, but I don't see it happening. The problem with alcohol abuse among people in their late teens/early 20's has less to do with the drinking age than it does with the way our society stigmatizes alcohol to young people.
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Old 08-19-08, 08:18 AM
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Here we go with the 'if they can serve their country' bit.

You might could make some argument for that 40 years ago when there was a draft and people didn't 'choose' to serve their country.
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Old 08-19-08, 08:21 AM
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Around here the driving age is 18. I don't want kids to be able to start drinking the same day they get their full license. Doesn't make sense to me. I also don't want to lower the driving age to 16 because there are already too many idiot teenage drivers around.

BUT I do think that 21 to start drinking is ridiculous. It's just silly to me. Maybe cutting it down to 19 makes sense just to give a years seperation from drivers license and drinking age. I also agree that seperating hard liquor and beer is a good idea.

19 for beer and 21 for liquor makes sense to me.
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Old 08-19-08, 08:23 AM
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Lowering alcohol age to 16 or 17 is about scariest thing I have ever heard.
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Old 08-19-08, 08:24 AM
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I support lowering the drinking age to 18.

I think it's interesting how closely the presidents' arguments in the article mirror those in favor of drug legalization, and the arguments made by MADD are largely the same talking points used by the drug warriors.

I drank heavily my freshman year of school, and like many others, obtained a fake ID to make it happen. There's no question I overdid it for a while, but I quickly grew out of it.

I do think there is something to be said about how the drinking age (and drug prohibition) pushes drinkers behind closed doors where more risks tend to be taken. For the most part, college students are going to do what they want, and most of them want to drink. I think legitimizing it at least brings it out into the open and allows the potential for more control.
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Old 08-19-08, 08:26 AM
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19 for beer and 21 for liquor makes sense to me.
That makes no sense whatsoever. I can get just as hammered on beer as on vodka.

21 is the proper age. Legally drinking alcohol requires maturity which unfortunately is coming later and later.
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Old 08-19-08, 08:26 AM
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short term: this will cause more problems
long term: this will be much better

I love the European's attitudes towards alcohol. I'd love it if a group of people could pack a picnic dinner and some bottles of wine and sit outside along a river in a major city in the United States without worrying about being arrested for violating open container laws.
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Old 08-19-08, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Nausicaa View Post
I support lowering the drinking age to 18.

I think it's interesting how closely the presidents' arguments in the article mirror those in favor of drug legalization, and the arguments made by MADD are largely the same talking points used by the drug warriors.

I drank heavily my freshman year of school, and like many others, obtained a fake ID to make it happen. There's no question I overdid it for a while, but I quickly grew out of it.

I do think there is something to be said about how the drinking age (and drug prohibition) pushes drinkers behind closed doors where more risks tend to be taken. For the most part, college students are going to do what they want, and most of them want to drink. I think legitimizing it at least brings it out into the open and allows the potential for more control.
Bah. I drank before I was 21. The law didn't move me to drink any more - my immaturity did. What the law does is keep these miscreants out of the taverns and bars.
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Old 08-19-08, 08:29 AM
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instead of splitting ages between beer/wine and hard alcohol, I'd rather see a split age for where alcohol can be purchased.

one age for buying alcohol in a bar/restaurant, a higher age for buying from a liquor store.
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Old 08-19-08, 08:29 AM
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18 works as the drinking age for most of the rest of the world. 21 is pretty hilarious.
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Old 08-19-08, 08:31 AM
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I thought this country was superior to the rest of the world? Why on earth would we want to mimic the dreaded Europeans!
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Old 08-19-08, 08:35 AM
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Originally Posted by classicman2 View Post
Here we go with the 'if they can serve their country' bit.

You might could make some argument for that 40 years ago when there was a draft and people didn't 'choose' to serve their country.
We still have selective service, and an involuntary draft could happen at any time.
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Old 08-19-08, 08:36 AM
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I believe those in the service can drink alcohol as the legal age on military bases is 18.
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