Magazine article University Business

A Long Overdue Conversation

Magazine article University Business

A Long Overdue Conversation

Article excerpt

A STRANGE AND INSPIRING THING happened this summer. Higher education grew a backbone. In July a group of 100 college and university presidents calling themselves the Amethyst Initiative came forward with the not-so-surprising news that young people on college campuses drink alcohol before they reach the legal age of 21.

Underage drinking is a serious issue for colleges and universities. It's also a serious issue in high schools across the country. And high school drinkers don't stop just because they get to college. As a result, underage drinking leads to dangerous, secret binge-drinking, among other problems.

The Amethyst Initiative calls on elected officials "to weigh all the consequences of current alcohol policies and to invite new ideas on how best to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol use."

The news, predictably, drew the ire of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which zeroed in on the suggestion that it is time to "rethink the drinking age." That became the misleading headline that ran in newspapers around the country: "College presidents want to lower the drinking age to 18."

Since it was founded nearly 30 years ago, MADD has done wonderful things to educate people about the dangers of drinking and driving, and should be applauded for these efforts. But by reframing the debate, the organization has diverted attention from the real issue to a phony one that "plays in Peoria."

We should note that nowhere on the Amethyst Initiative website ( does it say that the legal drinking age should be lowered to 18.

But people hear what they want to hear.

MADD issued a statement that encouraged the signers to remove their names from the list, and even hinted that additional pressure might come from state governors in the form of withheld funding. …

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