Lower the legal drinking age to 18, university presidents say
Aug. 19, 2008, 12:17AM
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.
The movement called the Amethyst Initiative began 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, a 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 schools in the group include Syracuse, Tufts, Colgate, Kenyon and Morehouse.
But even before the presidents begin the public phase of their efforts, they are already facing sharp criticism.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving says lowering the drinking age would lead to more fatal car crashes. The group accuses the presidents of misrepresenting science and looking for an easy way out of an inconvenient problem.
Both sides agree alcohol abuse by college students is a huge problem.
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 drank themselves to death from 1999 through 2005.