Choose Responsibility responds to MADD

We are extremely disappointed by MADD’s reaction to the Amethyst Initiative.

“Parents should think twice before sending their teens to these colleges or any others that have waved the white flag on underage and binge drinking policies,” MADD National President Laura Dean-Mooney said in a prepared statement.

The presidential statement signed by the 129 (updated 8/23) presidents and chancellors of the Amethyst Initiative (a list that is growing, not shrinking, by the hour) by design does not take a policy position regarding the establishment of a drinking age. References to the Amethyst Initiative as a group that is intent on lowering the drinking age to 18 are false and misleading.

What the signers of the Amethyst Initiative have asked for is an informed and dispassionate public debate over the effects of the 21 year-old drinking age. What they have received are attacks about their commitment to protecting the students on their respective campuses. Every president and chancellor who signed the Amethyst Initiative has called for a public debate on the best way to protect the lives of young adults and they should be complimented for their courage, not vilified.

By asking presidents to remove their names, and accusing their campus leadership of shirking their duty to protect the safety and welfare of their students, MADD has done little to contribute productively to this growing national debate. We urge all parties involved to enter this discussion in a civil and dispassionate way, and to reject such unecessarily inflammatory statements in the future.

38 Responses to “Choose Responsibility responds to MADD”

  1. Prof. Thomas Mostowy Says:

    MADD is not interested in a rational debate. MADD exists on fear, lies and emotion. You can’t expect any other reaction, the challenge is to ovrcome fear with reason. Good luck.

  2. Marshall Guthrie Says:

    I would be afraid to send my student to any institution that DOES NOT support debate on this, or any other subject. Educational institutions should be at the forefront of tackling the hard questions, exploring the unknown, and never taking any “fact” for granted.

    To have my college on this list would be an honor.

    Bard College

  3. Kevin Says:

    Madd are fanatics who show up in court for dui trials and try to influence the process without accurate legal training or legitimate info on the defendents. The can never be unbiased or rational, because they manipulate statistics and lie all the time. I think what Madd advocates “may” be prolonging the childhoods of their kids. Typical, selfish overly-motherly reactions. And that highway fund blackmail is un-American, even criminal. What Madd may have created is a generation of teens who are destined to confront the juvenile justice system for simply being like other normal “adults”. Rather sad State, I think. Kudos to the people who want to support reasonable discourse.

    Clemson University

  4. Robert Schafer Says:

    MADD has gone beyond being a group about awareness and has become a dangerous, debate-phobic temperance orginization. Even the founder doesn’t trust them anymore, and they deserve none of the respect they receive now

  5. still Kelli's mom Says:

    I do not support much of what MADD does, but i do on this matter.

    my only daughter wont get a chance to attend college. Kelli was killed by TWO underage drunk drivers and the THREE college students who gave them alcohol.

    why not spend your time on debating putting interlock devices on all cars? that way drunk driving would be close to elimination and then not as many people would care if college students drank or not.

    i think you should also point out why these colleges are supporting this idea = MONEY.

    i was SHOCKED to see my son’s school on this list! before he went onto grad school (at the same school), i clearly remember they had a speaker at graduation speaking about alcoholism at that school!!! wtf? are they now going to focus on how they can be more responible alcoholics?!!!

    that president will have my letter before the week is over!

    please visit my daughters memorial page and look at her top ‘friends’ all 40 (plus there is a waiting list) were all killed by drunk drivers.

    keep in mind that 44 people die everyday due to drunk driving. why dont you talk about how you can help lower that number, not increase it.

    ^^it’s all i have left of my baby^^

    ~Pam = still kelli’s mom

  6. Positive Liberty » “Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors and miss.” * Says:

    […] the legal drinking age to 18. To date, the proposal has been signed by over 120 college presidents, predictably incurring the irrational wrath of MADD and other quasi-professional […]

  7. Alexandre Says:

    Congratulations to Choose Responsibility and the Amethyst Initiative on the thoughtfulness used in such a situation. Regardless of the initiative’s outcome in terms of federal policy, the campaign is having effects on raising the level of awareness to multiple issues related to irresponsible alcohol consumption.
    I’m not a citizen of the United States and I’m currently living outside the U.S., but I have taught on five university campuses in Indiana, Massachusetts, and Texas. Through personal observation and lengthy discussions with diverse people on those campuses, I was given the measure of the negative effects of binge drinking, drunk driving, and other forms of irresponsible drinking which are “endemic” on university and college campuses in the United States. Not that irresponsible drinking is absent elsewhere. But I’ve lived in other environments where responsible drinking is the norm and I can’t help but see significant differences in terms of not only health and accidents, but in diverse aspects of academic and campus life. My overall observation is that campuses where responsible drinking is the norm make for educational environments which are much more conducive to actual learning than campuses on which illicit alcohol consumption is widespread (as is the case on so-called “dry campuses”).
    Because of historical associations between the two “wedge issues,” irresponsible drinking and drunk driving could be addressed together. In fact, driving a vehicle after having consumed alcohol is probably the most common and most dramatic effect of irresponsible drinking. Those who control their alcohol consumption and drink responsibly are very likely to adopt the most appropriate strategies to never need to drive after having consumed alcohol. In situations where alcohol consumption occurs within walking distance of home, driving while incapacitated makes extremely little sense. Furthermore, alcohol consumption in a safe environment, with careful supervision by people who do not drink, is unlikely to allow for incapacitated people to drive home. Conversely, when illicit alcohol consumption happens without supervision in closed quarters (such as a sorority or fraternity house), extremely negative outcomes such as drunk driving and improper behaviour are likely to occur, even if there’s no real logic behind driving a vehicle after having consumed alcohol.

    The attitude favoured by writers on this blog and by members of the Amethyst Initiative may make it possible for diverse groups of people to discuss all of these issues in a reasonable way, honouring the academic tradition of critical thinking.

    Thank you for your work.

  8. Jennifer Says:

    I wholeheartedly support this initiative.

    Binge drinking, both at the high school and college levels (many times also at the middle school level as well), has become an epidemic in this country.

    Though the spirit behind changing the minimum drinking age to 21 was that it would curtail drinking, it has caused the opposite.

    One of my good friends, as well as my sister-in-law, were killed by drunk drivers. Both of these drivers were OF AGE. That said, I understand where MADD is coming from, thinking that changing the drinking age to 21 has made the most difference in alcohol-related automobile/driving deaths.

    But the reasoning may be flawed. Would be interesting to see studies supporting their view, as well as studies on the number of people that have died due to drinking (especially binge drinking) and the number of people that have gone to ERs for alcohol poisioning in the years since the drinking age was raised.

    AI: any research studies that can be posted on your site and support switching the drinking age back to 18?

    If Americans are old enough to die for our country by joining the military, and have a say by voting in elections, then why can’t we be trusted to make a responsible decision regarding drinking?

    The REAL issue here is the weak laws we have for drinking and driving; they are way too lenient on offenders. Our country also does not have a good network of public transportation. I applaud universities that have good transport systems (especially ones that are free of charge) for students so that they have an easier choice/option to not drive after drinking.

    We have created a sub-culture of underage drinking and a market for fake IDs. While I don’t deny that individuals make their own choices…the power of peer pressure is difficult to resist, even for people that are known for making responsible choices.

    If having a drinking age of 18 is such a negative impact on society…then why do other countries with legal drinking ages of 18 (or lower) not have these major issues of underage/binge drinking, and/or drunk driving?

    Also, though I do not refute that illegal drinking goes on at fraternities and sororities, please note that many houses are now alcohol free and the chapters must follow strict risk management rules…or run the risk of having their charters pulled by the national fraternal organization.

    Just my thoughts…

  9. Mara Truly Says:

    Thank you to all of the presidents that have had the courage to sign the Amethyst Initiative. Who would better be in a postition to ask for debate than the women and men who are responsible for our children and see first-hand which policies are working and which policies encourage dangerous behavior in the attempt to taste the forbidden.

    I was a supporter of this initiative when I first read about it in the NYT a number of months ago. Today I was pleased to view the names of those that signed and see the president of my daughter’s college.

  10. Christine Gohr Says:

    The MADD organization does not need to be considered the antagonist to the Amethyst initiative. True, there is a difference in opinion on legislating a legal drinking age above the age of adulthood On the other hand, MADD supports all ideas and initiatives that relate to irresponsible drinking behavior. We all can support that concept.

  11. john Says:

    As a parent of two sons recently graduated from Bowdoin, I am personally indifferent to your initiative, announced in the national press today, which calls for a ‘national debate’ over reducing the drinking age to 18.

    As a lawyer who is deeply concerned about the hundreds of students who have died or been raped as the direct result of drinking on college campuses over the past few years, your initiative is very calculating and even a little shameful.

    Certainly one way to avoid the onslaught of liability recently visited on deserving colleges as the resultof such deaths and rapes is to put the law on your side, right? If this is what your initiative is about, I find it incredibly callous and phony, not to mention immoral.

    Simply put, the law is changing around the country as we speak as regards the duty of colleges, both under common law and under Federal and State statutes, to take effective and continuous steps to provide an educational environment which is safe from the ravages of criminal behavior (in the form of rape) or death (in the form of intoxication or accident), all directly related to drinking in dorms or fraternities. Your signatories know that they are no longer safe in simply producing a nice sounding policy, holding a few information sessions or even declaring their campuses “alcohol free”. Current trends show that colleges are being held accountable, as they should, under Title IX and under tort and contract theory, to effectively preserve the bargain they create with parents and incoming students – that is, the creation and maintenance of a safe campus.

    Sophomoric indifference and casual neglect by college administrators and ’security’ personal to blatant, persistent and destructive violation of campus drinking policies regrettably remain the norm, not the aberration in the nation. It has taken hundreds of deaths and rapes, as noted, and concerned parents and advocates to expose this and hold parties accountable.

    Thus, national fraternities and their local chapters are now routinely sued for negligence and failure to supervise and enforce their own standards regarding drinking. Why? Because they have been found accountable in several courts for the deaths of their pledges and members. People had to die on fraternity floors before people with the ability and resources to change this behavior began to notice.

    Similarly, deans and other administrators are currently the direct targets of suit when women are raped or students drink themselves to death. The law is beginning to recognize that the ability to prevent harm on college campuses resulting from drinking is real – several prudent institutions, with the help of consultants, students, parents, fraternities and alumni have stepped up to the plate and taken effective and continuous steps to prevent harm. As more of these colleges ‘do the right thing’, those who don’t will suffer from the failure to perform their duties to prevent such harm. As the standards for care change, and they are changing rapidly in courts, colleges which ignore their duty and ability to prevent deaths and rape associated with drinking will suffer and possibly even close.

    From my simple perspective, whether 18 is the right age for drinking on a farm in Michigan is not even remotely within the same realm of discourse as whether 18 year old freshman should be drinking in dormitories in Middlebury. All of your signatories know well that an 18 year old, in terms of judgment and overall behavior, is far more susceptible to engaging in drinking abuse than a 22 year old senior. If this is not the case, why do hundreds of colleges take special precautions regarding the behavior of freshman?

    In spite of this, you wish to ‘have a national dialogue’ about allowing these Freshman to drink, legally, in your dormitories. This is a thinly veiled attempt, in my view, to either shield yourselves from the changes in the law mentioned above or to simply excuse the current profound lethargy among college administrators vis a vis existing alcohol policies.

    Instead of embracing a transparent ‘dialogue’, why don’t you all sign on to a national uniform standard of effective protection of students from death and rape? For example, why haven’t you all come up with a uniform policy for adoption by all colleges which is Title IX compliant AND which is matched by a follow on national program of monitoring, grading and reporting as to effectiveness? I think I know why – it is cheaper and easier to ignore that which is creeping up on you.

    I tell you that long before the law is changed, college after college will be justly accused and found responsible for the plague of drinking-related deaths and rapes on campuses. In your own best interests, you should abandon this ‘dialogue’ and instead take immediate, collective and effective action to prevent alcohol-related tragedies.

    I am certainly cynical enough to know that none of you wish to be the guinea pig, that is, to tell all those affluent applicants that they won’t be able to drink. For example, what NESCAC school could recruit in hockey, football or lacrosse if it got out that the recruiting coach required the applicant to acknowledge and sign an alcohol policy? Oh, the humanity! However, in the long run for everyone, especially those 16-18 year olds who will die or be raped in 2010 on your campuses, it is time you got brave.

  12. Robert Burwell Says:

    I am a 20+ plus year volunteer leader a large North American college fraternity. I have been a chapter counselor in the late 70’s and early 80’s, and for the last 11 years, District Chief in upstate New York, serving 5 chapters. I also have a son who is a senior and a member of my fraternity at another school.

    Speaking only on my own behalf, I can supply anecdotal evidence that this effort has merit. Most certainly in my experience, the issues I have had with alcohol abuse and the risk incidents it has created at the fraternity chapters I have served, have been more frequent and severe during the past 24 years than in the years prior.

    The Greek community mirrored the academic in its unpreparedness for the cultural change created after 1984 (ironic timing). My advisor peers and I were conflicted in the need to move from a mentoring role that enjoyed responsible social situations to that of an adversarial one between undergraduates and alumni who advocated obeying the law. No formal or informal agenda in meetings with undergraduate leaders or members failed to have a discussion of the issue of alcohol use as its central focus. Homecoming celebration agendas changed to get the alumni out the door as soon as possible so that the bad behavior could begin. This eroded the continuity of brotherhood and widened the gap to the point that many alumni questioned the value of continuing. Those of us who have stuck with it find that the effort to mentor much more challenging, when we know that while we can discuss, the discussion must eventually end with it being my way. I have had the heartache of closing my own chapter of my fraternity, as well as that of another venerable New York institution, due to incidents stemming from prohibition induced alcohol abuse.

    Friends in student affairs positions likewise describe a dramatic change in the day to day focus of their jobs in the initial years, continuing today an enforcement role in the entire campus community that they would prefer to devote to more productive education.

    Parents are in a similar boat. You risk arrest if you attempt to include your 18 to 20 year old children in family social use of alcohol. Where better to learn responsible behavior than in the home where you built the rest of your character? Instead, they flee to field parties in high school, and off campus apartments and Greek houses at our colleges, seeking an efficient intoxication rather than a relaxed social setting among family and friends who are better examples.

    The creation of two campus cultures – one that can and, one that cannot, legally consume alcohol – will never be reconciled. This is a split that works better when those of legal age leave the social scene that includes underage friends behind. They move on to a new phase of their social development. You will no longer have 21 year old college students buying alcohol for underage friends. While opponents will suggest this act will move down to 18 year olds buying for those younger still, my experience from those days is that the 18 year olds, even those not in college, move to social circles made of age peers.

    The crisis has certainly led us to respond with the development many innovative and valuable education programs. Responsibility cannot be dictated, it is must be accepted. I am extremely proud of our fraternity’s Men of Principle initiative, which has now evolved to a total philosophical definition of the men with which we wish to associate and how we mold our chapters. I don’t know what might have been the catalyst for this without the world since 1984. However, by focusing on the universal aspect of personal responsibility in scholarly, community and social facets of life we have created an environment that is ready to move on. We were able to turn the volume down on this singular issue, and focus on the whole concept of character.

    The college presidents’ courage to seek a discussion is admirable. Fearing association with past stereotypes, I believe would make most if not all of the Greek organizations reluctant to publicly speak on the Amethyst Initiative. I do know that the Greek organizations would have the hard evidence to demonstrate the havoc prohibition has wreaked on our world during this time. Including them in the future discussion is essential as this discussion moves forward.

  13. Mike Says:

    I agree with Marshall. “To have my college on this list would be an honor.” Any college that supports debate on issues critical to student safety ought to be applauded. This is a group that can provide research into why a policy designed to work – frankly, isn’t. I’m lucky to have the honor.

    Santa Clara University, 2005.

  14. rmlt Says:


    Why is it that if you go up to McGill University in Montreal where the drinking age is 18, few of the horrors you describe are happening?

    I’m a lecturer in England and my campus has 6 pubs/nightclubs. I’ve never seen a student passed out on the quad or an ambulance called because of alcohol poisoning during my time here whereas this was routine when I was an Assistant Professor at a large campus at home.

    And if this is about liability, I don’t blame the university presidents. They’re faced with a public angry at the increasing cost of higher education and the huge unfunded mandate to police the behaviour of 18-20 adults. I think we need to ask ourselves whether or not it is fair that an Assistant Dean can face arrest and civil liability because a 20 year old decides to do something stupid–hello “personal responsibility”??

  15. Uli Says:

    I believe that setting that drinking age policy has little to zero influence on the rate of accidents that involve drunk driving. If MADD really wanted to reduce fatalities on highways due to drunk driving they should have campaigned for other means to tackle the problem:

    – lower the blood alcohol tolerance for drivers who are of age (.08 is way too much, that encourages even the DD to have a “couple” of beers at the bar)
    – other ways of dealing with DUIs, in my home country Germany people who are drastically over the limit (.05) get taken away their license right away and need to consult a psychologist for a while who has to state that they’re ready to re-do driving school to get it back – a process that takes up to several years, some don’t get the chance to regain it at all. Insurances often deny to pay even if drivers in an accident have as little as .02 or .03 blood alcohol.
    – more public transport. Higher gas prices can only do a good job in this regard. The more public transport is available, the less people drive home from the bar in their own car. Most people don’t drive for fun after a night out but because it’s their only choice. With the availability of public transport many college kids could get rid of their (often old and therefore unsafe) vehicles.

  16. Matt Says:

    MADD isn’t about “Mothers Against Drunk Driving,” it’s plainly mothers against drinking. I think we all can agree that drunk driving is deplorable, so why can’t MADD stick to their mission?

  17. Andy Says:

    “References to the Amethyst Initiative as a group that is intent on lowering the drinking age to 18 are false and misleading.”

    ….so, does that mean this growing list of ignorant college presidents would not be against RAISING the drinking age?

  18. JRG Says:

    In response to Andy:

    I believe you declined to read further after you got to the sentence that you refer to in your comment above. Perhaps before writing in for the express purpose of trying to show your intellect (by openly scoffing at said sentence), you would do well to use your superior brainpower and read the entire response.

    What is being said is not that the group is “intent on lowering the drinking age to 18” but that the group seeks to ultimately help facilitate a national, open, rational debate about the personal and societal effects of the current drinking age. Wanting to foster honest discourse about something is not the same as trying headlong to change it.

  19. Trevor Says:

    What i don’t understand is why MADD wont give the public and the viewers something besides… “The 21 way works” and “The age 21 law has saved thousands of lives”

    Im sick and tired of hearing that….. The car crash death rate was starting to go down before the law was set in place. How do they explain that?

    I wanna know what they really think should be done… they say these college presidents are being “irresponsible” I have not heard once what “Mothers Against DRUNK DRIVING” think should be done….

    These are not “ignorant college presidents”
    I admire and would show my complete respect for these College presidents who have stood up for what they believe and many others believe in… accually one poll on Msnbc about 70% of 200,000 people that voted online where in favor of 18 year old drinking age or a drinking licence at 18.

  20. Kate Says:


    I’m so sorry for the loss of your daughter Kelli. I looked at her myspace page and it is a tragic story. Apparently she was just 18 when she drank alcohol illegally at a party where everyone there could drink as much beer as they wanted for $5!

    Then she got in a car with an 18 year old man who was very drunk, raced with another car and then ran off the road killing everyone in the car. What a senseless waste.

    A few years ago my husband’s 23 year old cousin and his beautiful fiancee were killed by a drunk driver who caused a 10 car pileup on the interstate. Several other other people died or were horribly maimed. The drunk driver who caused the accident was over 30 years old, and was driving without a license due to his prior drunk driving convictions.

    The problem is not 18 year olds drinking, it is people of any age drinking and driving! And perhaps secondarily not knowing their limits– that’s probably what leads people like your daughter to knowingly get into a car driven by a drunk person or allow a friend to do so, or to drive that way.

  21. Dave Says:

    Colleges and universities cannot be responsible for the recklessness of the students that attend them. They are institutions of higher learning and not babysitters. Perhaps colleges are better suited for finding a cure for cancer and cultivating leaders, not policing and coddling young adults.

    The problem inherently lies with how these children are raised, not with how universities. What type of college student binge drinks and rapes? The type that was failed by poor role models, the type that gets his cues from reality TV, the type that was not raised in a moral environment, the type that has behavioral, social, and emotional issues that existed and were ignored long before he or she attended college.

    So, let’s have a REALLY honest discussion about under-age and abusive drinking, shall we?

  22. Marshall Guthrie Says:


    I assure you that my support for this matter is not a tactic to avoid liability for rapes and death. Rather, I refuse to maintain the “indifference” that you champion, and instead choose to fight towards a solution.

    You, as a lawyer, should continue to fight to incarcerate rapists and killers, because that’s your job.

    I have to warn you though, I’ll be taking food off your table because I’ll be working in the way I see best to keep those rapes and deaths from happening in the first place, and that’s to consider whether 21 legal age is working. It’s not my butt I’m worried about, it’s theirs, and that’s MY JOB.

    You have an open invitation to visit Bard College in Annandale on Hudson, New York anytime you’d like. 5 minutes with any person on my staff would convince you to rescind your attack on our morals, and I’ll even buy you lunch to make up for the downturn in rapists and killers.

    Seriously, I will. Email me at if you’re in the neighborhood. There’s a nice sushi place down the street.

    Marshall Guthrie
    Director of Student Activities
    Bard College

  23. Edwin Says:

    MADD is tyranny, it knows no boundaries, they’re dictators of our society because any state that sets their drinking age below 21 risks losing federal transportation funding. Choose Responsibility is democracy where all sides can come to the issue, so fight MADD with every gut you have!

  24. Mary Ann Says:

    When tragedy strikes our lives, we look to protect, often over protect. I believe that MADD serves a purpose, but in this issue the organization is wrong. As the mother of a teenager, I agree with the college presidents and chancellors that the 21 drinking age is actually increasing the problem with underage drinking. It causes teenagers to lie to parents because they recognize the liability the parent has if s/he is aware of the drinking; they drink in fields and isolated areas, or in the college instance, dorm rooms, unsupervised and because of all this they put themselves, and others, at risk more than they would if it was legal. It makes drinking more exciting and attractive because it is forbidden – and in a way that is difficult at best to rationalize given that at 18 everything else is legal – credit cards, gambling, marriage, military service, voting, contracts, etc. MADD serves a purpose, they are wrong on this issue and as a parent I will be asking the President or Chancellor of any college that my daughter considers attending if they signed and if not what the justification could possibily be. Deaths related to teenage drinking may have gone down, but it is due to the increased safety of vehicles and the tougher penalities for drive under the influence because I believe that more teens are drinking, and drinking younger and greater amounts become of the lack of any parental/authority awareness of most drinking parties.

  25. Janet Mullen Says:

    The drinking age was 18 while I was in college. I never heard of anyone that died from alchol poisoning! Our campus had weekend socials with keg beer. Hard Liquor drinking was at a minimum. We simply could not afford it! I have two boys, 19 and 21 who have both said college kids today drink hard liquor simply because it is more convienient. They can get a bottle of hard liquor to their dorm room, hide it easily and store mixers in their fridge. They can not get a 12 pack in their room with out being noticed. Keeping beer cold is a must and the refrigerators get inspected by RA’s. Hard liquor IS the problem with most college kids. Change the law back to 18 and let the kegs pour. College kids prefer to drink beer and do not die from it. Doing numerous shots of hard liquor is what’s fatal!

  26. Jim Says:

    When I was a high school senior in our school’s US Gov’t class we had a project were we proposed a ‘bill’ to our class. Being a 17 yr old kid I chose lowering the drinking age to 18, when I first chose this topic it was for no other reason that I was 17 and thought it would be “cool” to drink. After a lot of researching, I realized lowering the drinking age would be better for our country.

    The problem is parents, school, etc teach and preach do not drink. They do not teach how to drink responsibly. When I went to college and started drinking for the first time on a regular basis I was not 21. And I would drink until I could drink no more. I know now that was wrong on my part, however, is it really my fault I was prepared for failure when it came to drinking alcohol? I wasn’t prepared for what alcohol could and would do to me.

    I joined the military when I was 17 years old. I’ve been to places in the US where they do look the other way when you show a military ID that says you’re in the military. There were a few bars I went to when I was 19 and 20 years old.

    My brother left for Iraq when he was 19 years old. He married his high school sweetheart about a year before he left he was only 18 at the time. He died for his country but on his wedding day he wasn’t legally allowed to have a class of champagne with his new wife.

  27. James Connelly Says:

    I am against lowering the drinking age. But I do believe that lowering the drinking age will create more negative consequences than positive ones. I would like to know what sort of education programs these campuses already have in place to prevent underage drinking, and why they have not attempted to adapt the programs if they are not working. Maybe it’s not the drinking age that is causing these problems, maybe its the mentality of the people in charge. Has the idea of strengthening current laws and punishments eluded everyone. Why not revoke a students financial aid if they are caught drinking, or drinking and driving? Or suspend them for a semester? Or at the least, place them on some kind of academic probation? I believe that this initiative jumps straight the conclusion that lowering the drinking age is the only way.

    As for the people that have stated “people under 21 will drink anyways.” Not all college students choose to drink alcohol, only some. That sort of mentality undermines all laws. Some people choose to use illegal drugs, should we as a society legalize all illegal drugs because some may choose to use them? This mentality applies to all laws, not just illegal drug use.

    Like I said before, open and healthy debates are good for a democracy. But let’s keep our eyes on the overall goal: reducing the deaths and injuries to young adults.

  28. Rob S. NWArk Says:

    Great idea!

    Why didn’t someone think of this already? Oh, it looks like Iowa Central Community College President, Robert Paxton already has!

    FORT DODGE, Iowa — An Iowa community college president resigned less than a week after a photo was published appearing to show him pouring beer into a young woman’s mouth.,2933,413101,00.html

    Please put on your thinking caps!

  29. chris Says:

    It’s a sociological fact that when you take a popular activity and criminalize it, it produces criminals, i.e. the formerly law-abiding people are much more likely to cross the line once they’ve been declared de facto criminals–as a very high percent of young adults today are. So the rapes, assaults, etc. will decrease when drinking is decriminalized, but MADD and their allies can’t stomach that idea.

  30. Michael Federico Says:



    Drinking Age? The solution is as simple as one word. GRADUATED. If you are responsible enough to get your High School Diploma, then you are responsible enough to drink. The issue with any law with an arbitrary age limit is that it ignores the fact that some people are responsible while others are not. Driving is a good example. We require education and testing and then have GRADUATED licensing. Prove yourself to be irresponsible, your PRIVILEGE is reduced or revoked. The same should go for Drinking. The college presidents have a point. If you are responsible enough to gain admission to my school, then you are responsible enough to drink.

    It is time to tie personal responsibility to the privileges in our society – with a PRL – Personal Responsibility License or Privilege Responsibility License. If you show yourself to be responsible – in school, a GED, admission to college, enrolled in a trade or any skill, or public service – like an Eagle Scout or the Peace Corp — and in driving, drinking, any adult privilege – then you maintain a full license. But show yourself to be irresponsible, reckless, ignorant, or just lacking common sense – your privileges are reduced.

    There should be GRADUATED levels Novice, Rookie, Veteran – managed by the states via the drivers license systems. When you get in trouble with the law – the rules of adult responsibility – you lose privileges. Imagine what a PRL can be applied to:
    • Drinking
    • Driving
    • Firearms
    • Voting
    • Credit
    • Insurance
    • Child support
    • Job Applications

    We might even reduce the number of drop outs and increase public service. Ok, legislators, ACLU, NRA, AAA, ATF, many other special interest groups, have at it. It will be interesting to see the arguments against Personal Responsibility Licensing – a GRADUATED system of tying privileges to performance.

  31. Ben Says:

    I think that this is a great step towards change. I respect all of the college presidents who put their names on the list; i also respect those who did not. (the president of my school being one of them). This is a matter that needs to be discussed and a matter that i think will need to find some sort of middle ground. MADD makes this worse by trying to scare the parents of teenagers about to go to college. A really good example of this can be seen in the movie Detroit Rock City where all the crazy moms chanted outside of a KISS concert yelling that the kids at the concert were all blasphemers. I guess what i am getting at is that there needs to be a middle ground and there needs to be open discussion. It’s funny, up until i stumbled across Choose Responsibility in my dorm room last year- i had heard nothing about the drinking age debate. This initiative is going to be a major stepping stone towards a new and national debate that this country sorely needs.

    I digress, however, MADD does need to be quieted- being angry and not listening to anyone only does harm. let’s do this. Sorry for ranting.

  32. Ben Says:


    I’m a little bit lost… are you saying that drinking directly affects rape on campus? SO does that mean that alcohol makes you a rapist? So doesn’t that mean that all people who drink are going to be rapists? Oh the transitive property.

    Sir, you are the kind of guy who believes that alcohol does nothing but bad things, which is sad. Didn’t you ever wonder why people drink at weddings? Or when they go out to night clubs? At dinner? After a date?…. is it becasue that plan on being a rapist? .. Right, it’s not.

    With education and experience comes wondrous things. I think you should re-evaluate your argument and open your eyes.

  33. Justin Says:

    I sincerely hope my school will sign on with this initiative. I find it disappointing that people automatically put an age on the idea of personal responsibility. It’s a simple fact that at 18 year old in college can get as much alcohol as they want – your paltry 21 law just makes them try to hide it under the mattress, then load up on it before that hot party on Friday.

    I spent two years working as a resident assistant in a a dry undergraduate dorm. Every single Thursday, Friday, and Saturday we had increased rounds. We knew exactly when to catch people with alcohol – they would pre-party heavily from 8pm to 10pm, then go out for 3-4 hours. After midnight the fun really began. After party shots with the girls. Throwing up in the hallway ’cause they couldn’t stumble their way to the bathroom. Passing out in the stairway.

    One night we found a room in which both residents were freshmen. We made them pour out over two hundred dollars worth of alcohol, everything from a case of cheap beer to a handle of top shelf vodka.

    Two to three times a month we’d have to call 911 when we’d find someone passed out that we couldn’t wake up. Another freshman that didn’t know how to drink responsibly.

    Age is not the issue – drinking responsibly is. And that is what needs to be worked on.

    Make more people responsible drinkers. Then you’ll be closer to solving the problem.

  34. Warren Says:

    As both a tenured Full Professor and a part-time police officer, I have to say that this movement leaves me speechless.

    While it may be all fine and good to have 18 year olds drink at the campus pub and stagger to their nearby dorm rooms, we must remember that a change in the drinking age affects *ALL* 18-20 year olds, not just those on your campuses. So even if one makes the argument that your students will drink on campus rather than seeking an off campus location to party, the vast majority of newly legal drinkers will almost certainly be on the roads driving to and from liquor stores and taverns.

    When states increased their drinking age to 21 there was as much as a 28% decrease in fatal crashes among young people [Williams, A.F.; Zador, P.L.; Harris, S.S.; and Karpf, R.S. 1983. The effect of raising the legal minimum drinking age on involvement in fatal crashes. Journal of Legal Studies 12:169-79].

    While one might argue that even without the lowered drinking age, your young charges will just go ahead and drink and drive anyway, the statistics plainly point out that is not the case.

    Of equal importance is that a 21 year old drinking age gives law enforcement additional tools to prevent crashes by intercepting young drivers *before* they get to the full .08 BAC. In my state *any* detectable BAC for someone under 21 will result in (at least) a 90 day suspension of driving privileges. One of the hallmarks of mood altering substances is that the user is oblivious to their effects. Knowing that *any* alcohol will result in significant penalties will keep drivers sober a lot better than some arbitrary limit that a driver is supposed to recognize.

    As a police officer, I have seen my share of the senseless carnage that results from impaired driving. Of course, not all DUII crashes are attributable to drivers under 21. And, the victims of these crashes are not always the young people themselves. I am firmly convinced that while maintaining a 21 year old drinking age (I’d happily make it higher if I could) will increase the safety of our young people, it will also increase the safety of everyone else that has to share the road with them.

    One also cannot discount the affects of alcohol on individuals that as a group already exhibit poorly developed judgment and impulsiveness. Indeed, the doctrine of in loco parentis seems to argue that both universities and parents don’t think their college-age children are ready for adult roles. Otherwise, why have RAs in the dorms? Why even have dorms? My experience in the academy both as a peer as well as a faculty member (B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. and close to 20 years as a tenured faculty member) does not suggest that this philosophy is misguided.

    Many otherwise law abiding individuals often commit crimes ranging from domestic violence to criminal mischief to sexual abuse while under the influence of intoxicants. My experience tells me that upwards of 80-90% of the people I arrest (both minor and adult) are intoxicated to some degree. Why would one wish to encourage such behavior?

    While I am happy to debate increasing the drinking age, I am just as happy to debate the re-criminalization of homosexual behavior, the reintroduction of slavery or making dog fighting legal. Debate is always stimulating. But in all of these cases, the right decision is clear and has already been established.

  35. William Says:

    I’m not surprised MADD would not like a debate; they are responsible for this current mess that 129 college presidents are trying to address in an intelligent manner. I’m not sure about anyone else, but the local media’s cartoons (about the best they have to offer as a “rebuttal”) are juvinile to say the least.

    Kudos to Choose Responsibility!

  36. chris Says:

    Reading Warren’s posting above, I’m reminded of a popular Australian remark that compares the history and culture of their country with ours:

    “Thank God we got the convicts”

    We, unfortunately, got the Puritans.
    As long as drinkiing is viewed as a “sinful”, “criminal” and “dangerous” behavior, people will act accordingly, since they like to drink, and they may start to think sin, crime and danger are pretty cool.
    An earlier poster wonders why Canada has no problem with an 18 drinking age and we have to remember that this is a question of cultural attitude. Warren says he’d happily raise the legal age even higher than 21 and we must come to terms with the fact that Prohibition never really ended in this country and there are more people than we’d like to think who’d love to ban alcohol completely.
    After all, if forbidding alcohol to those under 21 really does make the highways safer, we can make them really, really safe by outlawing alcohol entirely.
    Oh, wait, they already tried that and it didn’t work very well….

    One more thing: the current rdiculous laws exist for one reason and one reason alone: young people don’t vote, so politicians aren’t afraid to punish them for something that cuts across generatioanl lines. Where I live on Long Island, there’s a commuter railroad and alcoholic beverages are sold on platforms and some rush-hour trains. Lately, a self-appointed crusader has been trying to ban this, arguing that people drinking on trains tend to get into cars when they reach their station. He’s had no success becaue those he’s targeting vote and have political and economic clout. They’re not going to let some modern-day Carrie Nation deprive them of their after-work cocktail. There really needs to be a movement among the youth to take back their rights.

  37. doc Says:

    “Warren” sounds a lot like R.B. Voas, a major anti-alcohol crusader. I’m an adjunct professor and I’d love to have some wine with my students at the end of the semester, instead of spiking orange juice like some kid at a high school dance.

  38. Corey Says:

    NYU and Sarah Lawrence colleges should join Amnesty inititive. They are well respected colleges and would be better places if they supported lowering the drinking age. Emma Roberts visited those colleges. I agree with Dave, treat young adults like adults, not kids! I agree with Chris as well. Prohibition encouraged rebellious behavior (organized crime, prostitution, bootlegging, homicide, etc.). Warren does not care about drunk driving! He thinks it’s perfect the way it is. Why not go after the most dangerous drunks and make them put ignition interlocks in their cars until they prove they can be safe drivers. 44 people killed by drunk drivers each day equals 16,060 people. We can do better. We need to cathch these hardcore alcoholics and treat them for their problems and punish the ones who maliciously kill innocent people!!! Drunk drivers are actually more of a danger to themselves and e need to treat them for their problem as soon as possible. Lets use ignition interlocks instead of simply suspending licenses because they’re gonna drive without one anyway! We should also apprehend dangerous drivers who are sober as well (ex. text messaging, reckless driving, etc.). If you want to solve the drunk driving problem, go see the American Beverage Institute! MADD is a big buck organization and all they care about is money but money can’t make them happy. They need counseling for their anger problems and to control their emotions! Laura dean monney’s husband was killed by a drunk driver who had a BAC of .34 and also died and yet she supports punishing responsible drinkers and anyone under 21! She should let her daughter go to any college she pleases!