Utah college president considers lowering of legal drinking age

July 19, 2008

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – A Utah college president is joining others nationwide who now want the drinking age lowered to 18. It’s a controversial idea. But they say it might work to cut down on binge drinking and alcohol abuse on college campuses. The president of Westminster College in Salt Lake says it’s worth talking about.

Drinking games are part of the college culture at many schools and all too often the players are under 21 years old. One Sophomore says, “I just want to have a good time with my friends… everyone gets drunk and parties hard.”

No one disputes that binge drinking among under-aged students is a big problem. Now more than a hundred college and university presidents have signed a petition, called the Amethyst Initiative, that claims it’s time to rethink the drinking age, that 21 is not working. President of Westminster College, Michael Bassis has signed and says he’s not necessarily advocating lowering the drinking age, but supports a discussion and debate that will hopefully stem ideas to help young adults make responsible decisions about alcohol use.

Some Westminster College students ABC 4 talked to say, “Great forum to get new ideas out there and maybe come up with a better solution than we have now.”

“Even if nothing came of it I certainly don’t think anything bad could come of having an open discussion.”

Art Brown, President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving of Utah says statistics show that the 21 law is working. Brown says, “It saves about a thousand lives a year… We’re happy to have a further dialogue and have engaged on the whole subject of underage drinking because it’s still too high and it needs to come down but that law needs to stay to save lives.”

The issue draws mixed reactions from students we talked to at Westminster. Heath Pascoe, who is of legal drinking age says, “Maybe not all the way to 18 but I think probably a 20 year old or 19 year old could handle it.”

20 year old Lindsy Brickell says, “I don’t feel an 18 year old or 19 or 20 necessarily is responsible enough to drink.”

It was back in 1984 that congress passed the law making 21 the minimum drinking age. The incentive for states to enforce it? If they don’t, they lose 10 percent of what they get yearly from the government for their highways.

There are campaigns in place right here in Utah like “parentsempowered.org” to help parents tackle the issue of under-aged drinking with their children.
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