Over a hundred university chancellors and presidents nationwide have signed an initiative signaling their support of lowering the legal drinking age. A signature notably absent, however, is the one belonging to University of California President Mark G. Yudof.
The plan, known as the Amethyst Initiative, calls for the minimum drinking age to be decreased from 21 to 18 years of age. Supporters argue that reducing the legal drinking age would encourage students to practice more responsible drinking habits upon entering college.
However, Yudof said that without convincing evidence proving the initiative’s benefits, neither he nor other UC administrators could support the call to lower the nation’s drinking age.
“The chancellors and I have come to the unanimous conclusion that, as leaders of the University of California, we do not intend to sign the statement,” Yudof said. “Neither I nor my campus colleagues believe there is a compelling reason to change present law. Nor is there a scholarly consensus that lowering the drinking age to 18 can be expected to yield health and safety benefits for young Americans.”
UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang said he stands firmly beside President Yudof on the issue.
“Needless to say, I am in full agreement with President Yudof’s statement,” Yang said.
While Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas said UC officials recognize that the drinking habits of college students are often concerning, he said they remain skeptical of whether the initiative would resolve the problem.
“I think alcohol abuse in colleges and universities is a problem that we administrators are greatly concerned about,” Lucas said. “However, I don’t think manipulating the drinking age is a solution to this problem. I think education is.”
In sharp opposition to the position taken by the administration, students said they agree with the initiative for a variety of reasons.
Ben Dreyer, a third-year environmental studies major, said the reduction in the drinking age to 18 would ease his conscience.
“I think it would make me feel less bad about my quest to get 18-year-old girls drunk,” Dreyer said. “It would be way sicker.”
Brenden Johnson, a third-year economics major, said underage college students drinking is inevitable given the environment of college campuses.
“The law is kind of ridiculous for college students, because it’s obvious that drinking always has and always will occur on campuses,” Johnson said. “I mean, every parent knows that their kids are going to drink when they get to college, even the square kids. I just think lowering the drinking age would really be beneficial for students and police. Students wouldn’t take it to such excess if it was legal.”
However, Julie Pacek, a third-year communication major, said the new initiative would have no success combating the binge drinking culture of Isla Vista.
“I don’t really think anything would change,” Pacek said. “Kids are going to drink all the time in I.V. regardless of whether or not it’s legal.”