Editorial: Lower drinking age best option

Last week, President Robert Shelton decided to oppose a petition – circulated by a group of more than 100 of the nation’s university presidents – that called for “”an informed and dispassionate debate over the effects of the 21-year-old drinking age.”” To us, Shelton’s decision was a disappointment.

If a high drinking age ever seemed like a good idea, it has clearly failed to do what it presumably set out to do: prevent students from drinking. Furthermore, Shelton’s public remarks on the petition give no indication that he has seriously considered the issues it attempted to raise.

Let’s examine Shelton’s stated reasons for not signing the petition.

“”Underage drinking in general, and binge drinking specifically, are serious concerns for our society and certainly at universities where so many young people in the 18-20 age group are present,”” Shelton wrote. “”From my perspective, I do not believe the issue is sufficiently simple to be solved by lowering the drinking age.””

Shelton simply dodged the issue with these remarks. All drinking is not “”binge drinking.”” “”Underage drinking,”” for that matter, is only a “”problem”” because of the current drinking age. Shelton’s remarks imply that drinking alcohol automatically results in a drinking problem – news, we’re sure, to the millions of adults in America who consume alcohol in moderation.

Shelton followed his remarks with a list of resources on campus to help students with drinking problems. Has it occurred to him that students with drinking problems may resist seeking out those commendable resources because they don’t want to admit, to their parents, their friends or even themselves,ÿthat they’re breaking the law?

Perhaps the UA administration simply wishes to stop students from drinking. Why? The UA is already a dry campus. If the administration wants to discourage students from drinking off-campus, they might well need a stern reminder that they have no business behaving as substitute parents to students who are legal adults.

Associated Students of the University of Arizona President Tommy Bruce agreed with Shelton’s decision. He told the Wildcat Friday that the high drinking age was justified because of “”the brain’s immaturity until the age of 21.”” There is evidence, in fact, that this is an overblown concern.

“”What would harm a developing brain is repeated hangovers and blackouts and head trauma from falling,”” psychiatry professor Brenda Chabon told the Los Angeles Times Monday. “”But if someone were drinking moderately from age 18, I haven’t seen any data to show that would have harmful effects in the long run.””

Furthermore, if Bruce’s contention is a good argument for keeping the drinking age where it is, it’s also a good argument for raising the age of enlistment. If 18-to-20-year-olds aren’t mature enough to drink, it’s unconscionable to send them overseas to risk their lives and minds in combat. A 20-year-old soldier who returns from Iraq to find that his society doesn’t trust him with a drink has every right to feel angry.

The high drinking age has not stopped students from drinking. Instead, it has turned underage drinking into a surreptitious activity. Students aren’t about to stop drinking. The wisest action would be to lower the drinking age and to focus the university’s energy on educating students about the dangers of excessive drinking.

Editorials are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Andi Berlin, Justyn Dillingham, Lauren LePage, Lance Madden and

Alisa Wilhelm.