Amethyst Initiative ignites debate on legal drinking age
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08/25/08 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Monday | Listen to this entire show:

Last month 100 college and university presidents and chancellors banded together to encourage a national discussion to reconsider the legal drinking age. The Amethyst Initiative contends that the “21 year-old drinking age is not working, and … has created a culture of dangerous binge drinking on their campuses.”

Don Eastman, president of Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, wrote an opinion piece in Monday’s St. Petersburg Times supporting a dialog about how to prevent alcohol-related deaths. Eastman is one of the only college presidents in Florida who has signed on to the Amethyst Initiative.

The Amethyst Initiative calls for an “informed and unimpeded debate on the 21 year-old drinking age.” Eastman thinks one reason students binge drink is because of the intrigue of doing something that’s not allowed; reducing the legal age could change that.

The purple gemstone was chosen as the namesake because folk tales consider it an antidote to drunkenness.

Arthur Kirk, president of Pasco County’s St. Leo University, is another signatory of the Amethyst Initiative. Many of the schools that have joined are smaller liberal arts colleges. Eastman suggested that may have to do with the differences between residential liberal arts college and large state universities.

Patricia Telles-Irvin is vice president of Student Affairs at the University of Florida. Along with UF President Bernie Machen she co-wrote an opinion piece taking the position against changing the drinking age. It also appeared in Monday’s Times. Instead of lowering the drinking age, groups should come together to solve the dangers of binge drinking, Telles-Irvin said.

In a poll of USF students Monday, slightly more than half of the 22 students queried in the lobby of the new Marshall Student Center thought the drinking age should be changed.

Of the students WMNF spoke with who have already reached the drinking age, a majority said the drinking age should remain at 21. That includes Business Accounting major, junior Danielle Shortridge.

Amethyst Initiative

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