Petition seeks lower drinking age

A petition open to presidents and chancellors of U.S. colleges and universities is reigniting the debate on the U.S.’s legal drinking age.

The Amethyst Initiative aims to reduce the drinking age to 18 from 21 to combat binge drinking on college campuses.

One thing students and professionals at UH agree on, however, is that the binge-drinking stereotype is far from accurate.

"I do think that there is an idea that college is an ongoing party, when it’s actually not true for most students," said Gail Hudson-Gillian, director of the UH Wellness Center and principal investigator for a federal grant recently awarded to UH wellness programs that promote protective behaviors and avoidance of binge drinking. "Anything related to drinking is always open to discussion. Our young people are our greatest resource, and anything we can do to reduce high-risk drinking is in our best interest."

There is concern among critics of the law that binge drinking is exacerbated by the 21-and-up drinking age. While the U.S. has one of the highest legal drinking ages in the world at 21, many countries allow drinking at 18.

"It’s a good idea to lower it to 18. There’s this thing called ‘reactance theory,’ – when you enforce a rule and people do the opposite," psychology senior Vboy Jacob said.

This idea resonates with other students.

"When you’re 18 you’re young, and there are all sorts of things you can’t do. When you’re 21, you’ve built up three years of frustration at just not being able to drink," architecture senior Pierre Janeczek said.

Janeczek is an exchange student from Paris, where the drinking age is 18 and alcohol is a familiar part of meals.

"It’s strange to not be able to go in (to bars) with my friends," Janeczek said. "There’s only three (years) difference, and at home I don’t think about it."

Janeczek’s experiences seem to illustrate a correlation between restriction and the flouting of rules.

"It’s the same (in France) whether to drink when 18 or 21, but there are no drinking games," he said. "We don’t need these kinds of games to drink. We drink when we want to."

The Amethyst Initiative counts 129 top college administrators as signatories, according to its Web site, The petition was sent to all presidents and chancellors of universities and colleges in the U.S.

The idea of polling institutions of higher learning goes deeper than wanting prestigious backing for the initiative. For American families, college is the first time 18 year olds live outside parental aegis and are entirely responsible for the consequences of their actions as legal adults.

Opposition to the initiative has been varied, including a call from University of Iowa President Sally Mason for cultural change to occur in the U.S. before moderation in drinking can be expected, the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s newspaper The Gateway reported.

Director of University Communication Eric Gerber said UH does not support the proposition.

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