To the editor:
Making the news this past week is a public statement signed by over 100 college presidents that want to dialogue on the subject of lowering the legal drinking age from 21 to 18. It is known as the Amethyst Initiative and originated with a former college president, John McCardell. These presidents recognize that alcohol is a big problem on their campuses and are trying to find a way to deal with it. Lowering the drinking age seems to be a way to avoid the responsibility these presidents have to control the problem.
My thanks to Chancellor Robert Hemenway for not signing this public statement. He realized the problem would not be solved by lowering the drinking age. The University of Wisconsin has taken steps to confront their problem. They are notifying the parents when a student is involved in public drunkenness. If the age were lowered to 18 that would involve many high school seniors. Even younger people would have friends in the 18-year-old age group that would supply alcohol to them.
Of course, one of the biggest reasons to keep the age at 21 is the number of deaths it prevents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that 900 lives annually have been saved since the drinking age was raised to 21. So, one wonders, what value do these presidents who signed the Amethyst Initiative put on the number of lives proven saved by the higher drinking age?