President Elisabeth Muhlenfeld of Sweet Briar College Says Age 21 Drinking Age Isn't Working

Dr. Muhlenfeld supports the Amethyst Iniative, an attempt by college and university presidents to initiate a national discussion on ways to reduce underage alcohol abuse. She explains:

"I am an enthusiastic signer of the Amethyst Initiative because I am deeply concerned about the increasingly dangerous culture of clandestine binge drinking among high school and college students across the nation. Every day, we see the tragic costs of that culture first hand. It is the lucky college president who has not had to telephone parents to report that their child has been the victim of date rape exacerbated by alcohol abuse, or killed in an automobile accident coming back from an alcohol fueled all-night party. SAMHSA, a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services, states that nearly one in five teenagers (16 percent) "has experienced 'black out' spells where they could not remember what happened the previous evening." This is not good clean fun. It is a national shame that demands our attention.

College and university presidents are not given to diving into such controversial waters. We know this issue is fraught with pain and frustration. But we also know that 21 simply isn't working. Colleges work hard to combat the culture of underage drinking, and particularly binge drinking. But we often feel like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke. At my college, more than 70 percent of our students are under age, but we find ourselves unable to educate them effectively about drinking. We can only preach abstinence, which we know is unrealistic, or urge responsible behavior when imbibing – which acknowledges they will be breaking the law. Both postures seem hypocritical. There must be a better way, and the Amethyst Initiative is a clarion call to seek solutions."



  • Amethyst Iniative. Why I Signed.

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