College presidents want drinking age lowered to 18
BY JENNIFER MALONEY | firstname.lastname@example.org
August 19, 2008
College presidents from more than 100 schools across the country are calling on lawmakers to do something about binge drinking: Consider lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18.
"Twenty-one is not working," says the group's statement, signed by presidents from prominent colleges such as Dartmouth, Duke and Syracuse. "A culture of dangerous, clandestine 'binge drinking' - often conducted off-campus - has developed."
No Long Island schools are on the list, which includes Manhattan College in Riverdale, Ohio State, Tufts in Massachusetts and Colgate in upstate Hamilton.
Even before the presidents begin the public phase of their efforts, which might include newspaper ads in the coming weeks, they face sharp criticism.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving says lowering the drinking age would lead to more fatal car crashes. It accuses the presidents of misrepresenting research and looking for an easy way out of an inconvenient problem, and urges parents to think carefully about safety at colleges whose presidents have signed on.
"It's very clear the 21-year-old drinking age will not be enforced at those campuses," said Laura Dean-Mooney, national president of MADD.
John McCardell, former president of Middlebury College in Vermont who started the initiative, cited research by Alexander Wagenaar, a University of Florida epidemiologist. But Wagenaar himself sides with MADD in the debate.
Some officials at local universities say lowering the drinking age would have little impact.
"From the research studies that I've seen ... 50 percent of the students who are drinking have had their first drink before they're 17," said Jenny Hwang, associate dean and director for prevention and outreach at Stony Brook University. "So I don't know that changing the age from 21 to 18 would make much of a difference."
Hofstra University spokeswoman Melissa Connolly said in a statement that there "doesn't now appear to be enough data to conclude that lowering the age would lead to less rather than more drinking."
But a national discussion, she said, might lead to some constructive suggestions.