The Amethyst Initiative
Is Bowie State ready for a debate to lower the drinking age to 18?
by Tamera Farrar
In July 2008, college presidents and chancellors from all
over the country banded together by signing
their names to a statement, saying that there is an increasing
problem of binge drinking on college campuses.
The Amethyst Initiative supports a debate about lowering the drinking age.
They are calling upon officials to consider all aspects of current
drinking laws and policies, hoping that this will help young
adults make wiser decisions about alcohol consumption.
This effort began in June of this year when John McCardell, president of Middlebury
College and founder of Choose Responsibility, was invited to speak at
a gathering of the Annapolis Group, which consists of 120 liberal arts colleges.
McCardell talked to other Annapolis presidents about their thoughts about lowering
the drinking age. They soon discovered that they shared the same opinion,
so they created the framework that is now known as the Amethyst Initiative.
The amethyst became the symbol for this Initiative because, since
ancient Greek times, the stone was believed to counteract the
negative effects of alcohol. Goblets and jewelry were made of amethyst,
and also used as decoration at feasts and
parties to fight off intoxication.
Part of the Amethyst Initiative states that, "A culture of dangerous, clandestine
"binge-drinking"-often conducted off campus-has developed. Alcohol
education that mandates abstinence as the only legal option has not resulted
in significant constructive behavioral change among our students.
By choosing to use fake IDs, students make ethical
compromises that erode respect for the law."
Many students, educators, and parents also agree with the statement.
According to that, young adults contend that, "On your 18th birthday,
you became an adult. You are mature enough to vote, serve on jury,
sign a contract, and even to place your life on the line in combat.
But despite being entruested with these highest responsibilities of
citizenship, you may not purchase, possess, or consume alcohol until you turn 21.
Given this alarming contradiction, it is not surprising that the vast
majority of young people in America began drinking before
they were legally allowed." Educators have joined the Initiative as well.
"Together, we can tap into the power of reality-based education
and attack the culture of excessive drinking that has come to mark
adolescence and young adulthood in the United States.
At this point, the statement, even with the college presidents' support
and signatures, does not mean an instant policy change. It just means
that many students, parents, and educational leaders are ready for a
public, formal setting to determine whether or not a lower drinking age
would be better for adults under the current drinking
age. "The Amethyst Initiative proposes open discussion and debate about
the potential merits of lowering the age for the legal consumption of
alcohol," said Dr. Mickey L. Burnim, President of Bowie State University.
"There are, of course, pros and cons but debate and discussion
can be very beneficial and an appropriate approach for universities to take."
So what does this mean for Bowie State? How would the campus be
affected if a drinking age were lowered? Some, of course, may
feel that it would be beneficial because of the reasons that the initiative states,
but others feel a negative effect on the horizon. "People often like to compare America to Europe
when we begin to discuss the drinking age, said Tiffany Cheek, representative of the University
of Maryland Student Council. "Young people drinking in Europe works for them
because their culture is different. From a young age, Europeans are taught
about alcohol and how to appreciate it. They are not drinking to get drunk
but they are drinking for social and celebratory purposes.
I do not believe that we are ready to lower the drinking age at all."
Bowie's campus police refused to comment.
Currently, there are 130 colleges and universities in agreement with the Amethyst Initiative.
Among them are Spelman College, Towson University, Goucher College, Johns Hopkins
University, and the University System of Maryland.