The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

College presidents call for a re-evaluation of drinking laws

The Amethyst Initiative, a group pushing for national discourse regarding the drinking age, began operating only within the last year but has already garnered support from over 100 college presidents.Presidents at schools such as Duke, Middlebury and Dartmouth signed a national petition calling on lawmakers to “rethink the drinking age,” with hopes of encouraging a national discussion.

The 126 signatories do not ask outright for a lower drinking age, which is the decision of a state, but call for a debate regarding laws that deny states federal highway money if their drinking age is lower than 21.

However, the college presidents that have signed believe lowering the drinking age is a beneficial move. They feel the present drinking age, 21, only fosters binge drinking on college campuses.

Sophomore Elissa Hachmeister, who is not of legal drinking age, believes the current law is dangerous.

“Compared to other countries, like Italy, we have an unhealthy culture surrounding drinking,” said Hachmeister. “Drinking becomes a clandestine, rebellious activity.”

Senior Julia Fout believes that lowering the drinking age alone isn’t going to improve college campus drinking habits, and that for real change the whole American outlook needs to be different.

“Students will drink either way,” Fout said. “I think relaxing drinking laws so teens can drink with their parents is the best solution . they learn good drinking habits under parental guidance in their homes. That way, when students reach college age, they aren’t swayed to drink irresponsibly and are less likely to drink abusively because they’ve developed a healthy relationship with alcohol.”

Studies show that college campuses are host to enormous drinking problems. Research shows that 40 percent of college students have admitted to showing signs of alcohol abuse. Nearly 500,000 students report alcohol related injury, and roughly 1,700 accidental deaths occur each year, according to the Associated Press.

John McCardell, a former Middlebury College president and organizer of the Amethyst Initiative, told the Associated Press “it is a law that the people at whom it is directed believe is unjust and unfair and discriminatory.”

Hachmeister’s belief does not differ from McCardell’s.

“An 18-year-old can serve as a legal guardian, join the military, buy a gun, get married, vote, but is not trusted to have a beer? It’s insulting,” Hachmeister said.

However, many groups disagree and believe drinking laws are not meant to insult, but rather save.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, says the evidence shows that after the drinking age rose from 18 to 21 there was a decline in the number of drunk-driving fatalities.

University of Miami president Donna Shalala believes that lowering the drinking age is a huge step backwards.

“I remember college campuses when we had 18-year-old drinking ages, and I honestly believe we’ve made some progress,” Shalala said to the Associated Press. “To just shift it back down to the high schools makes no sense at all.”

The Guilford administration released a statement to the Guilford Parent Pipeline Forum explaining the college’s approach to the Amethyst Initiative and similar petitions.

Guilford College President Kent Chabotar says he rarely signs petitions without input from the community.

“Guilford speaks for the community,” Chabotar said. “Not an individual. If students, faculty and staff start talking about it and reach a consensus I don’t see why I wouldn’t bring it up with the trustees. But I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

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