Presidents of Three UM Colleges Affirm ‘Rethinking’ Drinking Age

September 19, 2008

The presidents of UM-related Drew University, Duke University and Millsaps College are among 129 college and university presidents and chancellors to sign a public statement of the Amethyst Initiative, a movement advocating public debate on and reconsideration of the current 21-year-old drinking age. “Twenty-one is not working,” the statement reads. “A culture of dangerous, clandestine ‘binge-drinking’—often conducted off-campus—has developed…. Adults under 21 are deemed capable of voting, signing contracts, serving on juries and enlisting in the military, but are told they are not mature enough to have a beer.”

Explaining his decision to sign the statement, Duke President Richard H. Brodhead said, “The current law has not prevented alcohol from being available… [but] the law does have other effects: it pushes drinking into hiding, heightening its risks, including risks from drunken driving; and it prevents us from addressing drinking with students as an issue of responsible choice.” The Amethyst Initiative website ( emphasizes that the statement and those signing it are not advocating a specific change to national policy, but rather are raising awareness that the current age limit has “unintended consequences” and that “current realities” merit a reassessment of the decades-old law.

Jim Winkler, General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), commented on the college presidents’ action in a recent column on the GBCS website.

“This is a personal issue for me,” Winkler said. “My daughter is 19. She will begin her sophomore year in college next week. My son is 17 and will turn 18 in November.… I confess I am glad they cannot walk into a store and legally walk out with alcohol. Setting the drinking age at 21 simply makes alcohol less available to younger people who still have a lot of growing up to do.”

The Social Principles of the UMC support abstinence from alcohol and advocate “judicious use with deliberate and intentional restraint” for people who do choose to consume alcoholic beverages. “We support the strict administration of laws regulating the sale and distribution of alcohol and controlled substances,” says the Book of Discipline statement on alcohol and other drugs. — Newscope reports