Two of 125 college and university presidents who have come out advocating a nationwide petition that calls for reconsidering the legal drinking age are withdrawing their support for it.
Check out the New York Times piece on this:
August 22, 2008
2 Withdraw From Petition to Rethink Drinking Age
By SHAILA DEWAN
ATLANTA — Two college presidents, both in Georgia, have withdrawn their names from a petition to reconsider the legal drinking age after it drew blistering criticism this week from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, safety experts, transportation officials and politicians.
But 15 more from across the country have signed on, the organizers said Thursday.
All told, 123 presidents from colleges including Dartmouth, Duke, Ohio State and Tufts are supporting the petition, which says that raising the drinking age to 21 has fostered a culture of clandestine binge drinking and that students’ use of fake identification has eroded their respect for the law.
'Twenty-one is not working,' the statement reads.
But critics have accused the presidents of misleading the public, shirking their responsibility to enforce the law and trying to dodge the problem of student drinking.
The Governors Highway Safety Association has promised to hold at its national meeting next month 'a workshop to help highway safety agencies counter any effort in their states to lower the drinking age.'
Kendall Blanchard, the president of Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, said he had pulled his name off the list in part because critics had misunderstood the petition’s intent. 'It was clear to me that they didn’t see this as a dialogue; they saw this as some kind of effort on our part to turn our schools into party schools,' he said.
The other president who withdrew from the petition was Robert M. Franklin of Morehouse College in Atlanta.
Many critics said they objected to the suggestion that studies did not conclusively show a benefit to raising the drinking age, particularly the reduction of alcohol-related traffic deaths among young drivers.
'Why would you take the one thing that has been tried in the last 30 years that has been shown to be most successful and throw that out the window and say, "I have a better idea?" ' said Alexander C. Wagenaar, an epidemiologist at the College of Medicine at the University of Florida.
But college presidents say they are fighting a losing battle with binge drinking and alcohol poisoning.
'Many of our university presidents are doing as good a job as they can at enforcing the drinking age,' said John M. McCardell Jr., the former president of Middlebury College in Vermont and a leader of the petition effort, which began last month. 'They’re doing all the right things, and what is the result? Well, young people are moving beyond the view of the college officials and often beyond the boundaries of the college campuses, and campus officials have no authority there.'
S. Georgia Nugent, the president of Kenyon College in Ohio, who signed the petition, said, 'I think there’s a direct connection between this law and this pattern of secret, fast consumption of high-octane alcohol. It’s much more dangerous than the traditional great big, loud keg party because it happens quietly, out of view.'
Mr. McCardell is the founder of Choose Responsibility, an organization that advocates lowering the drinking age, but the petition drive, called the Amethyst Initiative after the gemstone that the Greeks believed would ward off intoxication, calls only for 'dispassionate public debate' of the issue. The drinking age has been 21 across the country since 1988.
In a written statement that Mr. McCardell called 'intimidation bordering on bullying,' Laura Dean-Mooney, the president of MADD, asked the public to call the signers and demand that they remove themselves from the list.
'As the mother of a daughter who is close to entering college, it is deeply disappointing to me that many of our education leaders would support an initiative without doing their homework on the underlying research and science,' Ms. Dean-Mooney said in the statement. 'Parents should think twice before sending their teens to these colleges or any others that have waved the white flag on under-age and binge drinking policies.'
College presidents should focus on changing the culture on campus, Ms. Dean-Mooney said. She cited efforts like requiring alcohol education, scheduling more Friday classes to cut down on Thursday night parties, fighting marketing efforts like drink specials and ladies’ nights near campuses and coordinating with local law enforcement agencies.
But students said they were not getting drunk in bars.
'From freshman year on, I hardly ever went out on the weekends without having four or five shots of vodka beforehand,' said Diane Bash, a senior at Ohio State University. 'You’ve got to preload before you get to a bar because you can’t drink once you go in. I definitely drink a lot less now that I’m 21, and so do all my friends.'
Despite such tales of excess, experts said there was little hard evidence that binge drinking became more prevalent after the drinking age was raised to 21. One of the most comprehensive studies shows that heavy drinking among college students, defined as five or more drinks in a row, peaked in 1984.
Other studies by Henry Wechsler, a retired professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, show that binge drinking remained steady, with about 44 percent of college students doing it, from 1993 to 2001.
The controversy shines a light on the culture gap between college students and their nonstudent peers, who drink less.
Chuck Hurley, the chief executive of MADD, acknowledged that widespread drinking on campus fostered a distinct set of problems. 'The drinking age is working far better in blue-collar America, or community college America, than in Ivy League America,' he said.
If parents who support the current drinking age limit don't like it when college presidents push for the lowering of the drinking age law, then they should call for ending the government's involvement in higher learning. They shouldn't send their kids to that environment where underage drinking is the cultural norm. But, of course, they want it both ways: they want the government to finance the colleges and universities that encourage an environment of drinking but don't want the drinking age lowered. They can't -- and shouldn't -- have it both ways. Either the drinking age should be lowered to a uniform age limit or be abolished and stop victimizing the college students who are on the government dole or repealing the government's financial aid for and involvement in higher learning. In other words, either they support privatizing the colleges and universities or they accept the fact that a much-lowered drinking age will promote more of an incentive for the youth to be responsible with their actions, including drinking.
Not that the government should be subsidizing the entire education industry. Not that these parents and other taxpayers should be forced to pay for the tuition and education of college students of all ages, including the Pell Grants, other federal grants, and subsidized and unsubsidized student loans. That entire boondoggle should be eliminated entirely and immediately or at least as soon as possible.
However, parents should be responsible for promoting responsible drinking by educating their youths on the effects of alcohol and drop the idea that an arbitrary age limit of 21 will avert more drinking and driving accidents at the age of 18 or that a lower drinking age will encourage more "binge drinking," meaning out-of-control irresponsible drinking. That's already happening under the current system, and yet the statist parents and government officials can't and won't see that. Besides, "age of consent," in governmentese, is an artificial moron construct. Although federal and state laws don't see it this way, real age of consent (meaning an individual youth's choice consenting to the activity and not some arbitrary edict setting the limit) not only includes sex, but it also includes smoking, drinking, watching an adult film, voting, and going off to fight a war in some faraway land.
Parents should even stop supporting the "childification" (infantilization) of these youths, who have been taken out of the hands of their own families and become warded to the state which has placed them under its control and enslaved them until they reach the magical age of 18. By the time they reach the age of 18, it's too late: that "child-like" mindset under which these young people labor has taken over completely and will be a permanent part of their lives. If anything, it's the parents who are at fault for allowing this to happen. They think that they are not responsible for teaching their kids about sex, drugs, alcohol, the importance of work ethics, and other paramount things that will become a crucial part of these youths' lives.
If only these parents had spines, stopped supporting groups like SADD and MADD, and pushed for control over their kids' lives, perhaps we wouldn't be in this mess. But that's wishful thinking. Parents and the government are the reason why the youth are binge drinking, having sex, using drugs, not working and learning work ethics before they're 18, and rebelling in a childish fashion because they are not allowed to understand responsibility that will be a paramount part for the rest of their lives.