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Whittier College prez wants to lower legal drinking age

August 18, 2008 | 12:55 pm

How_young_is_too_young Sharon D. Herzberger, the president of Whittier College, is one of 100 college leaders backing the Amethyst Initiative, launched last month to persuade lawmakers to lower the drinking age in the U.S. from 21 to 18.

Not only does the current law fail to protect young people from alcohol abuse, it creates a culture that encourages it, the group's mission statement says. Schools like Tufts, Smith, Dartmouth and Duke are among the high-profile signatories. Though the effort is barely a month old, opposition is already fierce, the Daily Breeze reports.

"This is a law that is routinely evaded," said John McCardell, former president of Middlebury College in Vermont who started the organization. "It is a law that the people at whom it is directed believe is unjust and unfair and discriminatory."

Other prominent schools in the group include Syracuse, Tufts, Colgate, Kenyon and Morehouse.   

But even before the presidents begin the public phase of their efforts, which may include publishing newspaper ads in the coming weeks, they are already facing sharp criticism.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving says lowering the drinking age would lead to more fatal car crashes. It accuses the presidents of misrepresenting science and looking for an easy way out of an inconvenient problem. MADD officials are even urging parents to think carefully about the safety of colleges whose presidents have signed on.

Look for the issue to make news as the group's ads hit print.

-- Veronique de Turenne