Tuesday, August 19, 2008

College Presidents call for drinking age debate

College Presidents call for drinking age debate

Over 100 college presidents have signed on with a group which advocates reconsidering the 21 year old drinking age.

The only Iowa name listed on the Amethyst Initiative is James R. Phifer of Coe College in Cedar Rapids.

"This is a law that is routinely evaded," said John McCardell, former president of Middlebury College in Vermont who started the organization. "It is a law that the people at whom it is directed believe is unjust and unfair and discriminatory."

Strictly speaking, the drinking age of 21 is not a federal law. It's 50 state laws. 21 had been the law in most states until 1971, when, at the height of the Vietnam draft, the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18. Many states followed suit with the drinking age.

But states raised drinking ages en masse after 1984, when Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act. That bill imposed a penalty of 10 percent of a state's federal highway appropriation on any state setting its drinking age lower than 21.

That bill was passed largely due to pressure from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), who quickly set their sights on the Amethyst Initiative. "It's very clear the 21-year-old drinking age will not be enforced at those campuses," said Laura Dean-Mooney, national president of MADD.

The drinking age was an indirect but hot issue in last year's city elections in Iowa City. An initiative that would have raised the bar admission age from 19 to 21 was defeated by an overwhelming student vote.

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