Should Urgo Sign the Amethyst Initiative?

It’s no secret that drinking is prevalent on campus. Just wander around Lewis Quad, the Crescents, or the Greens on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday night and you will be overwhelmed by the number of students currently drinking, drunk, or otherwise intoxicated headed to parties, or perhaps on their way to the hospital for treatment of alcohol poisoning.

This phenomenon is not unique to St. Mary’s, however, as the same (or worse) is true at campuses around the country, whether the parties are on campus, off campus, or sponsored by fraternities. Binge drinking, defined by the Mayo Clinic as “downing more than five drinks in a row”, is rampant on college campuses and shows no signs of slowing down, despite efforts to educate students on drinking problems.

Under current United States law it is not legal in any state to consume alcohol before the age of 21, although we are considered independent adults capable of voting, signing contracts, serving on juries, and enlisting in the military at 18. This is in my opinion a very big contradiction.

Apparently I am not the only one who thinks that the current drinking age is in need of examination, as the Amethyst Initiative, launched in 2008, “calls upon elected officials to support an informed and dispassionate public debate over the effects of the 21 year old drinking age”.

The initiative, founded by liberal arts colleges, has 135 members including University of Massachusetts, Goucher College, University of Wisconsin, Towson University, University of Maryland College Park, Virginia Tech, and the University System of Maryland, and can be signed by any college or university president or chancellor.

Former President Maggie O’Brien refused to sign the initiative, but times have changed and now it is up to President Urgo to decide whether or not the college should sign on to the initiative. Given that President Urgo has already proposed opening a pub on campus, it seems that he would be amenable to the idea of signing the initiative.

However, as signing indicates that the college as an institution is acknowledging that the current drinking age is not working and is in need of reevaluation, which is quite a powerful statement as states who refuse to adhere to the minimum drinking age of 21 get 10 percent of their federal highway funding cut under the 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Act.

Personally, I am in support of President Urgo signing the Amethyst Initiative, as I believe the current drinking age to be outdated and ineffective. Fake IDs are everywhere, just ask a student or any of the off campus bars or liquor stores.

Underage students drink frequently on campus even if they had a legal student buy the alcohol for them. Not that I am condemning drinking underage, I’ve done it responsibly and lived in Germany where the legal drinking age is 18 and noticed that students were less inclined to binge drinking. Simply, the current drinking age is not working on college campuses and institutions should work on its reform.

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