Georgia schools against lower drinking age

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August 22, 2008

4:49 AM

__Universities will not support initiative to open the drinking age debate__

Six Georgia universities decided against supporting a student movement to lower the minimum legal drinking age. The University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Emory University, Morehouse College and Agnes Scott College issued statements Wednesday saying that they were not supporting the Amethyst Initiative.

The Initiative was founded about a month ago by Dr. John McCardell, former president of Middlebury College, and urges university presidents to ask lawmakers to discuss lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18. The group argues on its website, www.amethystinitiative.org, that “a culture of dangerous, clandestine ‘binge-drinking’ — often conducted off-campus has developed” because of the current drinking age, and lowering this minimum age would alleviate the problem. Amethyst’s website lists the signatures of about 100 well-known American colleges that have joined the movement.

According to university representatives, UGA, Georgia Tech, GSU, Emory and Agnes Scott will not sign the initiative’s online non-binding petition to lawmakers. UGA President Michael Adams said in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “On the issue of changing the drinking age, this is not a parade I want to lead.” Other Georgia schools, however, including Oglethorpe University and Spelman College, signed Amethyst’s petition. When asked why he supported the movement, Oglethorpe University president Lawrence Schall said, “I signed the Presidential Statement not because I think there is an easy solution out there, but because we need to be talking about solutions.”

The current drinking age is a relatively new restriction. Though each state imposes and enforces its own drinking age, every state increased their minimum age of alcohol consumption to 21 after president Ronald Reagan signed the Uniform Drinking Age Act of 1984. The Act instituted a 10 percent cut in federal transportation funds on states where the drinking age was lower than 21.

Though it was assumed that a vast majority of college students would support the movement, some are speaking out against the Amethyst Initiative.

“People are going to do what they want to do, but is it a good idea to encourage it?” Spelman junior Alicia Scott told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Many colleges are still considering the Initiative’s petition, but the issue has not yet made its way unto the agenda of state lawmakers.

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