Opening the drinking-age debate

Leaders of more than 130 universities last summer signed the Amethyst Initiative, which calls on university and college leaders to âÄúsupport an informed and dispassionate public debate over the effects of the 21-year-old drinking age.âÄù Meanwhile in Minnesota, horror stories about death from over-consumption captured headlines. Most recently, on Aug. 4, a Minnesota State University of Mankato student died after a night of overconsumption and in the fall of 2007 another Mankato student died after a night of heavy drinking. Since last fall, according to the Star Tribune, there have been at least five alcohol-related deaths among young people in Minnesota college towns. The aforementioned incidents indeed merit debate in and of themselves. But, as the Amethyst Initiative states, since Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act in 1984, it is clear that 21 is not working. University officials should hence turn debate into action. Namely, University and police officials should lessen enforcement on students caught drinking who are under 21 and instead target the real problem: Students of age giving minors alcohol. It should be obvious by now that demand for alcohol, especially for minors, is not going away. Police, for instance, made an average of 490 alcohol-related arrests from 2004 to 2006, according to Cleary Act statistics. Additionally, police from 2004 to 2007 gave out an average of more than 81 underage drinking citations in the first two weeks of school (the numbers throughout the years fluctuated). Smart enforcement would target the supply, not the demand, because the latter has not diminished. It would be smart on University and police officialsâÄô part, moreover, to create a campus for safe drinking rather than force minors to binge in their dorms and roam the streets and frat row in drunken stupors. After all, it must be remembered that the two Mankato students who passed away were not minors; they had just turned 21. Teach students how to drink, do not make it taboo. Because it has become clear that, like sex, students are going to do it. And we all know what happens when adults and officials tell them not to. Punishment, in this case, hinders its very objective.