In 2007, a non-profit organization called Choose Responsibility sought to begin a debate to come up with a new way to deal with the problem of irresponsible drinking by young people, according to chooseresponsibility.org.
In July 2008 the Amethyst Initiative, a project of Choose Responsibility, was launched. According to amethystinitiative.org, the initiative is made up of chancellors and presidents of institutions of higher learning from all over the United States who signed a petition expressing their concerns about the current minimum drinking age of 21 and its contribution to binge drinking on many campuses. The petition states the belief of the signatories that a debate about the drinking age is needed among elected officials. Despite the fact that Dean of Students Xavier Romano is a vocal supporter of this petition, the President of Knox College did not sign it.
In explanation, Dean Romano expressed a sense that the initiative would not do much to change the current drinking culture on many campuses, and that it was not set up in a way that would benefit Knox.
Citing his many years of experience dealing with students on campuses like Knox, and the fact that the Amethyst Initiative seemed to stress the relationship between the current drinking age and a large binge drinking problem, Dean Romano said, “Tying this initiative with lowering binge drinking…that’s not where I am even remotely coming from.”
“To me,” Romano said, “there is a very interesting question about what is the role of university, what is the role of the university as it relates to the socialization of young people into their society, a society that is becoming more global and international. I would articulate that 21 doesn’t work, and someone who says that it does, I think, probably doesn’t have a very good sense of what’s happening on their campus.”
Despite questioning of some of the initiative’s reasoning, Romano supports it, saying that it is important because it allows for discussion of this topic to take place.
The student response to the idea of a lowered drinking age was not so simple. Some students cited a discrepancy between the practices of the United States and the rest of the world as a reason for their support in lowering the age to 18 here.
Senior Patrick Cavins said, “I think that the drinking age should be lowered, but that if you’re going to lower the drinking age, you should increase the age at which you can drive to 21. The rest of the world does it that way. We’re the ones who don’t.”
Charles Ely, a freshman, remarked on the difference between being legally recognized as an adult and maturity, saying, “In some ways, lowering the drinking age to eighteen would make sense because you’re a legal adult…On the other hand, a lot of people aren’t that smart at eighteen.”
Other people in favor of lowering the drinking age noted the benefits that would come from making it a legal activity instead of something done on the sly. Junior Vicki Daza said, “I think that if the drinking age was lowered, then more people would be more comfortable getting walks home when they were…drunk.”
But on the other hand, Josh Davidoff, junior, said there were drawbacks to having alcohol legally accessible to people under 21, including the pressure to drink more.
“I think that all the pressure attributed to twenty-one year olds to drink when they turn twenty-one would be even more on nineteen year olds and they would get completely hammered their first year of college and screw everything up,” he said.