National drinking age up for debate

More than 100 college presidents from around the country are calling for lawmakers to open discussion on lowering the national drinking age from 21 to 18, but do not count on St. John’s to be among them, University officials said.

“St. John’s is not involved in this story and the University has no comment,” said an official university statement.

The college officials’ signatures are being gathered by the Amethyst Initiative, a project started last month in an effort to get Congress to rethink the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, passed in 1984.

As of August 26, the Vermont-based group reports obtaining 128 signatures from university presidents and chancellors in 35 of the 50 states.

Some of the more renowned schools on the list include Dartmouth, Duke, Ohio State and Tufts University. Syracuse and Manhattan College are among the 10 New York institutions in favor of the initiative.

The petition signed by college officials does not outright demand for a lower drinking age. However, it does declare that there is a common belief among signers that the current minimum drinking age is ineffective and the purpose of the movement is to ignite “serious debate among our elected representatives about whether current public policies are in line with current realities.”

The initiative has come under fire in recent weeks from anti-drinking coalitions such as Mothers against Drunk Driving, which has called the petition “misguided” and that it does not acknowledge the lives saved by the current minimum drinking age act.

An August 21 New York Times article reported two college presidents, who initially agreed to take part in the nationwide appeal, changed their minds and withdrew their names from the list.

One of the administrators, Kendell Blanchard, president of Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, said in the story that he eventually decided against joining the Amethyst Initiative because he felt participation was being viewed as “some kind of effort on our part to turn our schools into party schools.”

According to St. John’s Office of Student Life, the Queens campus has been a dry campus for the last 10 years in relation to “any activities and/or university-sponsored events where under-aged students of the university are concerned.”

The Student Code of Conduct prohibits “use, possession or distribution of alcoholic beverages except when authorized by the Department of Student Life for a particular function, on University-owned, or controlled property or at University-sponsored functions.”

The St. John’s Queens Campus Security Act Statistics reports in 2006, there were 294 liquor law violations in the residence halls. This is an increase from 234 reported infractions in 2005 and 260 in 2004.

Statistics for 2007 and the beginning of 2008 were not available.

Some St. John’s students said they feel lowering the minimum drinking age could potentially invite more college students to drink.

“I think it would cause more trouble [on campus],” said freshman Kristin Powers. “The current age limit doesn’t really stop many people from drinking now, I think it’ll be worse if more people were able to do it legally.”

Terence Miller, another freshman, seemed to agree that not much good would come out of modifying the minimum drinking age.

“If you lower the drinking age, I think it would give students more incentive to drink,” he said.

However, not all students were in favor of maintaining the drinking age at 21.

“At 18, you’re an adult and are able to pay taxes and fight in wars, so why can’t you have a beer?” said junior William Hoffeditz. “It may be a little rough at first with our generation if the age limit was lowered anytime soon, but with more alcohol awareness classes, eventually it shouldn’t be a problem.

Freshman David Ortiz said he hopes in the event a new national minimum drinking age is adopted, students drink responsibly.

“If they lowered the limit, I don’t think it would be that big of a deal, but hopefully people would become more responsible for their actions since they would be able to drink legally,” he said.

At the moment, there does not appear to be serious talks going on regarding amending the National Minimum Drinking Age Act.