Murray State University Joins Amethyst Initiative for Public Discussion of Underage Alcohol Policies

The Amethyst Initiative is a group of college and university presidents across the United States who believe that "the problem of irresponsible drinking by young people continues despite the minimum legal drinking age of 21, and there is a culture of dangerous binge drinking on many campuses."

Amethyst Initiative presidents promote public discussion about the unintended consequences of current alcohol policies, including the minimum legal drinking age of 21, and invites new ideas on how best to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol use. For more information, visit Amethyst Initiative and Choose Responsibility

There are a number of possible policy changes that might be discussed. They include such things as possibly:

  • issuing drinking learner permits to adults aged 18 or older, similar to driving learner permits;
  • permitting adults serving in the armed forces to consume alcoholic beverages under certain conditions;
  • permitting states to develop their own programs to reduce alcohol abuse without penalizing them for doing so by withholding highway funding;
  • lowering the drinking age to 18, 19 or 20;
  • some combination of the above;
  • considering ideas not yet proposed.

There is much resistance to even discussing possible options for a variety of reasons. Many organizations and professionals have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Some simply don't believe any change is needed. Some believe the questionable theory that drinking in moderation harms developing brains, a notion disproven by the experience of Jews, Italians, Greeks, Portuguese, French, and others around the world. Some doubt the maturity of young adults. Some don't think we can improve what we're already doing. A surprisingly large number favor the de facto prohibition of alcohol as a way to prevent alcohol-related problems. And the list goes on.

Therefore, it's a brave person who publicly calls for discussions about how we might reduce alcohol abuse among young people. However, a large number of the presidents of some of our leading colleges and universities have courageously taken such a stand by signing the Amethyst Initiative to do exactly that.

The Amethyst Initiative "is a call for discussion about drinking on campuses; it is not, as some headlines have mistakenly suggested, a demand to reduce the legal drinking age from 21 to 18, 19, or anything else."

Dr. Randy Dunn, President of Murray State University

President Randy Dunn of Murray State University emphasizes that "To be clear at the outset, Amethyst is a call for discussion about drinking on campuses; it is not, as some headlines have mistakenly suggested, a demand to reduce the legal drinking age from 21 to 18, 19, or anything else."

He observes that colleges "have a culture of drinking that has not lessened with all of the enforcement and education that has taken place to curb alcohol use. College students who wish to drink are doing so. But they are doing so in a way that promotes binge drinking, clandestine drinking, and drinking to intoxication whenever an opportunity to do so arises (and to drink faster to reduce any risk of getting caught)."

Dr. Dunn believes that young adults

can learn how to drink responsibly-complying with all existing laws against public intoxication, drunk driving, and everything else associated with drinking as an adult. They can drive, vote, get married, go to war, enter into contracts, pay taxes, decide on their own health care, and pretty well exercise all of those privileges that society confers upon "adults" -but according to federal law (which has become the basis for Legal 21 in every state)- they cannot be trusted to consume alcohol in any circumstance or situation. To me, that seems counterintuitive.

Dr. Dunn says "I don't know what the results of a national discussion and debate on Legal 21 will be -but I do know there are no easy answers to this. We have not changed the culture of drinking that is pervasive on many of our campuses today. I also know that stifling debate on issues is not healthy behavior -for universities or democracies."

President Dunn has proven himself to bean courageous educaional leader.


  • Randy Dunn. Should the drinking age be reconsidered?, The News, August 29, 2008.

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