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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA joins drinking age debate

    Bartender Jonas Black shoots the breeze with Ed Delamotte, an entrepreneur senior, left, and Sam Claussen, a business economics senior, yesterday afternoon at The Auld Dubliner on University Boulevard. Last week, 100 college presidents from across the nation signed a petition to begin discussions on the possibility of lowering the legal drinking age from 21.
    Bartender Jonas Black shoots the breeze with Ed Delamotte, an entrepreneur senior, left, and Sam Claussen, a business economics senior, yesterday afternoon at The Auld Dubliner on University Boulevard. Last week, 100 college presidents from across the nation signed a petition to begin discussions on the possibility of lowering the legal drinking age from 21.

    A recent petition has stirred up nationwide controversy with the intent of reevaluating an old debate: the drinking age. Yet this time, instead of recently-graduated high school seniors and college freshman asking for signatures, college presidents and chancellors are doing so.

    The petition, cleverly named the Amethyst Initiative, for the Greek word ‘not intoxicated,’ was created by the former president of Middlebury College, John McCardell. It moves to, at the very least, organize a debate on the prospect of lowering the drinking age. Currently, 129 university presidents or chancellors have signed the petition, feeling a change is necessary. McCardell is also the creator of chooseresponsibility.org, an alcohol awareness Web site.

    “”We are supporting a law that is violated and flouted by the people it is supposed to protect,”” said Grace Kronenberg, assistant to the director for chooseresponsibility.org. “”It is not great evidence that the law is working.””

    Kronenberg argues that the current standard for drinking, which was established in 1984, is simply not effective.

    “”The 21-year-old law isn’t working and has had unintended consequences,”” she said. “”The public, as well as elected officials, need to reconsider the age and ask for new ideas.””

    Kronenberg said that taking drinking out from behind closed doors and into the open so it can be managed, controlled and moderated is a priority.

    “”Right now, it’s going on in private. If the 21-year-old rule is rescinded, states could experiment with other options such as an 18- or 19-year-old drinking age,”” Kronenberg said. “”Also include mandatory alcohol training. There are a lot of different options.””

    Derek Knocke, psychology junior, agrees with Kronenberg, “”I think it will make things a lot better around campus and the town in general,”” he said. “”If kids can drink legally, they wouldn’t be doing so many crazy things afterwards.”” Knocke, 22, added there is a certain need to participate in underage drinking as a rebellious act. Should it become legal to indulge in alcohol at 18, the allure may dissipate and the binge drinking rate may lower.

    However, the petition has been met with staunch criticism.

    “”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,”” said President Robert Shelton. “”From my perspective, I do not believe the issue is sufficiently simple to be solved by lowering the drinking age. I have not signed the petition.””

    Kelly Larkin, executive director of the Southern Arizona Chapter for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said the organization is very disappointed with the actions of the signatories.

    “”Binge drinking is not new and has gone down since the 21 law took effect in 1984,”” she said. “”For us, increasing access would not make the problem better. In MADD’s opinion, we are more likely to see many more deaths occur rather than the number go down.””

    “”Some universities are just trying to get out of the liability and masking their inability to control drinking on their campuses by saying, ‘Well let’s just make it 18,'”” said Tommy Bruce, ASUA president.

    He added, “”One of the biggest reasons for the age law was because of the brain’s immaturity until the age of 21. Why would any academic want to encourage legal drinking at the age of 18 when it has the ability to harm the use of the brain and the learning opportunity of those students?””

    Shelton says the best way to combat binge drinking and alcohol related incidents on campus is better education. He added that students should utilize the resources on campus for support.

    While the specifics of the petition itself sparks controversy around the country, Tucson city officials are left wondering whether such a bill could carry the weight needed to lower the drinking age in Arizona.

    “”Certainly through our initiative process, a committee could write up a proposal and go through the signature process and get onto the ballots. For the state of Arizona, 154,000 signatures are needed for something to go to legislature,”” said Jason Baron, staff member in the Office of Intergovernmental Relations for the City of Tucson. “”Once the Secretary of State certified the proposal, then it could be considered by the voters of the general election. That would be in 2009.””

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