100 College Presidents Support 18 Year-Old Drinking Age

College students, most of whom are over the age of 18, can vote, enlist in the military and yet are not considered mature enough to sit down at their local bar and have a beer.

All that may change very soon as, “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,” says the Associated Press.

The Amethyst Initiative, started by former president of Middlebury University John McCardell, “is made up of chancellors and presidents of universities and colleges across the United States.  These higher education leaders have signed their names to a public statement that the 21 year-old drinking age is not working, and, specifically, that it has created a culture of dangerous binge drinking on their campuses.” [See COED’s article Vermont To Reconsider Drinking Age from 3/25/08].

Research by Mothers Against Drunk Driving found that, “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.”

And with those statistics in mind it is Moana Jagasia, a Duke University sophomore from Singapore, who says it best.

“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.”

(Check out the full list of signatories here)

10 thoughts on “100 College Presidents Support 18 Year-Old Drinking Age”

  1. As a parent of two sons recently graduated from Bowdoin, I am personally indifferent to your initiative, announced in the national press today, which calls for a ‘national debate’ over reducing the drinking age to 18.

    As a lawyer who is deeply concerned about the hundreds of students who have died or been raped as the direct result of drinking on college campuses over the past few years, your initiative is very calculating and even a little shameful.

    Certainly one way to avoid the onslaught of liability recently visited on deserving colleges as the resultof such deaths and rapes is to put the law on your side, right? If this is what your initiative is about, I find it incredibly callous and phony, not to mention immoral.

    Simply put, the law is changing around the country as we speak as regards the duty of colleges, both under common law and under Federal and State statutes, to take effective and continuous steps to provide an educational environment which is safe from the ravages of criminal behavior (in the form of rape) or death (in the form of intoxication or accident), all directly related to drinking in dorms or fraternities. Your signatories know that they are no longer safe in simply producing a nice sounding policy, holding a few information sessions or even declaring their campuses “alcohol free”. Current trends show that colleges are being held accountable, as they should, under Title IX and under tort and contract theory, to effectively preserve the bargain they create with parents and incoming students – that is, the creation and maintenance of a safe campus.

    Sophomoric indifference and casual neglect by college administrators and ‘security’ personal to blatant, persistent and destructive violation of campus drinking policies regrettably remain the norm, not the aberration in the nation. It has taken hundreds of deaths and rapes, as noted, and concerned parents and advocates to expose this and hold parties accountable.

    Thus, national fraternities and their local chapters are now routinely sued for negligence and failure to supervise and enforce their own standards regarding drinking. Why? Because they have been found accountable in several courts for the deaths of their pledges and members. People had to die on fraternity floors before people with the ability and resources to change this behavior began to notice.

    Similarly, deans and other administrators are currently the direct targets of suit when women are raped or students drink themselves to death. The law is beginning to recognize that the ability to prevent harm on college campuses resulting from drinking is real – several prudent institutions, with the help of consultants, students, parents, fraternities and alumni have stepped up to the plate and taken effective and continuous steps to prevent harm. As more of these colleges ‘do the right thing’, those who don’t will suffer from the failure to perform their duties to prevent such harm. As the standards for care change, and they are changing rapidly in courts, colleges which ignore their duty and ability to prevent deaths and rape associated with drinking will suffer and possibly even close.

    From my simple perspective, whether 18 is the right age for drinking on a farm in Michigan is not even remotely within the same realm of discourse as whether 18 year old freshman should be drinking in dormitories in Middlebury. All of your signatories know well that an 18 year old, in terms of judgment and overall behavior, is far more susceptible to engaging in drinking abuse than a 22 year old senior. If this is not the case, why do hundreds of colleges take special precautions regarding the behavior of freshman?

    In spite of this, you wish to ‘have a national dialogue’ about allowing these Freshman to drink, legally, in your dormitories. This is a thinly veiled attempt, in my view, to either shield yourselves from the changes in the law mentioned above or to simply excuse the current profound lethargy among college administrators vis a vis existing alcohol policies.

    Instead of embracing a transparent ‘dialogue’, why don’t you all sign on to a national uniform standard of effective protection of students from death and rape? For example, why haven’t you all come up with a uniform policy for adoption by all colleges which is Title IX compliant AND which is matched by a follow on national program of monitoring, grading and reporting as to effectiveness? I think I know why – it is cheaper and easier to ignore that which is creeping up on you.

    I tell you that long before the law is changed, college after college will be justly accused and found responsible for the plague of drinking-related deaths and rapes on campuses. In your own best interests, you should abandon this ‘dialogue’ and instead take immediate, collective and effective action to prevent alcohol-related tragedies.

    I am certainly cynical enough to know that none of you wish to be the guinea pig, that is, to tell all those affluent applicants that they won’t be able to drink. For example, what NESCAC school could recruit in hockey, football or lacrosse if it got out that the recruiting coach required the applicant to acknowledge and sign an alcohol policy? Oh, the humanity! However, in the long run for everyone, especially those 16-18 year olds who will die or be raped in 2010 on your campuses, it is time you got brave.

  2. Thank goodness my sons college is not on this list. If it were, I would head up a campaign to parents and supporters to STOP giving money until it was removed.

  3. I'm glad for this. I have to ask all who oppose this if they have ever seen the amount of 18 year olds who drive drunk when cops bust a party as opposed to waiting for the alcohol to leave the body or pass out.

    I'm not saying drunk driving is gonna stop, there are always the idiots who drive off drunk, but at least with this law there would be time to think and wait for soberness instead of running from the cops and not thinking about it.

  4. I drank in high school, I drank in college underage, and I drink in college as a 21 year old. Making the drinking age 18 would not have changed any of this. It simply would have made it easier to acquire booze and entry to bars. And frankly, it's not as if these things were difficult enough to discourage any sort of abuse.

    Perhaps if you live in a place where the large majority of high school kids don't drink, changing to 18 would make a difference. But the only change this would make in my life would be that I don't have to buy beer for my underage friends anymore.

  5. Look at Europe. The drinking age in most countries there is 16. Their rate of alcoholism and drunk driving are no different, if not less. the US is the only country in the world besides a small handful of others that have such a high drinking age. I am 18 and I go to college at Chico State. (yeah i know…party school) but really, there is no reason why the drinking age shouldn't be lower, keeping the drinking age high certainly isn't reducing my alcohol intake. In fact if I had started drinking sooner, I'm sure I wouldn't even like it as much now. If it's really drunk driving that you consider as the problem, then raise the driving age. My relatives from Europe visited and were shocked that a person could drive, and put so many people's life at risk at 16, and yet they thought it was absurd when I had to go to court for Minor Consumption in high school. (18 yrs. old) I think its time the US observed what it is we are trying to "fix" by keeping drinking ages high and driving ages low, if you ask me we are going backwards.

  6. I was on holiday in California and Nevada this summer (I'm 20 and English, but I live in Holland where the drinking age is 16). Every place where I nonchalantly ordered a beer, the attitude of the waiter/waitress immediately turned to 'Possible Terrorist: treat with extreme suspicion'.

    However, when I decided to visit a gun store in Las Vegas (I believe it was called 'The Gun Store'), the second I enter, the guy behind the counter said "Hey buddy, you want to fire a machine gun?". They let me fire off a whole assortment of amazing killing machines without even asking for my ID.

    So, let me get this straight. When under 21: Firing instrument of death capable of killing any and all in the immediate vicinity? No Problem! Consuming a liquid that makes one a bit merrier and less appreciative of the distance between hand and doorknob? EVIL!!!

    As said before, us Dutch have been drinking since we're sixteen. By age 18, everyone knows their limits, and I have found that me & my friends actually drink less than our age-mates in the UK who can't drink till they're eighteen. You need to ease into these things.

    And even if you don't subscribe to that theory, 21 is ridiculous. The US government allows you to be married, a porn star, a company owner, or blown to smithereens in eye-raq before you reach that age, all these things would seem quite a bit more life-changing than having a swig of Corona.

  7. Permit me to give an example. Here in Australia, the legal drinking age in all states is 18. Do we have a higher proportion of crashes involving alcohol? Do we have a higher proportion of fatal crashes involving alcohol? Do we have a higher incidence of violent crime? The answer of course is no.
    In 1996 crashes where alcohol was not a factor were over 64% nationally. Currently in NSW alcohol is a factor in only 18% of fatal crashes. Compare this to your national average of 37% fatal crashes (down from 42%). Also note that your alcohol limit is 0.08% BAC compared with our 0.05% BAC (0-0.02% BAC for provisional drivers depending on state).

    I'm glad to see a push for change, I believe it's a step in the right direction. Perhaps instead of blaming young people for being irresponsible you should look at how your lawmakers and the community generally approach drink driving. Alcohol is not your problem, but the management of alcohol abuse is.

    Sorry to preach, I just feel this is a very important issue and you can't reject change out of hand.

  8. Sheltering people from alcohol will only make their curiosity increase when they can finally have it…not to mention you're away from your parents for the first time in your life and around other people your age…common knowlage is that you will drink because you can and because it is new…do it in excess..I find it absolutly rediculous and stupid that you can fight and die for your country, legally own and fire a firearm, get married all at the age of 18…and not be able to drink legally at your own wedding…at what point in history did someone say, Alcohol needs to be off limits until 21 yet you can do aforementioned things at 18…alcohol isn't bad at all as long as you know your limits and when it is effecting other aspects of your life…sheltering people from this won't help this matter at all..If you introduce it at a younger age people will accept it and be more responsible with it later in life, why?? Because it's not taboo or illegal…Proudly Canadian, where the drinking age is 18…I think I've said it all, and plus..parents who disagree just think about how more responsible your child could be if alcohol consumption under the age of 21 isn't frowned upon…because eventually it would be nothing special and just another aspect of normal life

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