Do you agree with lowering the drinking age?

The question of whether or not the drinking age should be lowered from 21 to 18 was the issue of the Debate on Lowering the Drinking Age, hosted and organized by FUSA and FUSA President Jeff Seiser ‘10 last Wednesday.

According to the results of a mock ballot sent around the audience at the debate, 48 attendants said they were in favor of lowering the drinking age, while nine said no.

Seiser said the reason for organizing the debate was to introduce different aspects of the debate to Fairfield students. “We need to educate ourselves on this issue,” he said.

[poll id=”13″]

John McCardell, president-emeritus of Middlebury College and founder of the Amethyst Initiative, and James Fell, former member of the Board of Directors for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, were the two speakers at the debate — McCardell for lowering the drinking age to 18 and Fell for keeping the legal age at 21.

Fell began the debate by saying that he and McCardell both have the same goal — “reducing the abusive drinking of young people” — but they each are going about it in different ways.
His argument presented many facts on why he believes the drinking age should remain at 21, including the number of alcohol fatalities among young people and the higher percentage of binge drinking among young people in Europe.

McCardell responded by bringing up the connection between individual state highway funds and the state’s legal drinking age.

According to McCardell, the debate over the drinking age needs to occur without the states fearing the 10 percent loss of highway funds.

In addition, he stressed what 18-year-olds can do, such as serving in the army. By having the drinking age stay at 21, he said, ”You see the inconsistency with that, I see the inconsistency with that.”

University Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Tom Pellegrino was pleased that the debate opened up dscussion on the issue, especially after the University signed onto the Amethyst Initiative.

“Our motivation for being a signatory was to advocate for a dispassionate national debate on an issue that is important to everyone but which, to my mind, has not received nearly the attention it deserves in the public discourse,” he said.

“In that respect, I applaud both Dr. McCardell, Mr. Fell, and their respective organizations for bringing the issue into sharp focus for us.”

Pellegrino said that he does not have a formal opinion on the topic because of the many other issues involved.

“Personally, I would agree with Dr. McCardell that individual states should be given the ability to legislate on this issue without fear of losing federal dollars, which is where we currently stand. My concern is that much of the creative thinking that could and should occur around this issue has been unintentionally stifled,” he said.

“That creative thinking was certainly on display Wednesday evening with the comments from our students,” continued Pellegrino.

Associate Director of Residence Life Jason Downer also attended the debate and felt that it was important for the University to have open discussion on the issue.

“My hope is that the discussion continues in public ways, that is what has been missing until the Amethyst Initiative started, I just hope it continues to grow and the debate leads both sides to a better understanding of the legal drinking age,” he said.

Although he does not have a strong opinion for either side, Downer said that it does alarm him how much students drink and binge drinking.

In regards to the discussions between students and staff members at the University, Downer said he hopes discussion continues. “I hope they (University staff members) took it as an invitation to talk openly with students about alcohol use, and not ‘keep it in the shadows’ and pretend that students under the age of 21 don’t drink.”

According to Seiser, he has received an invitation to the Get Real Campaign, which is a campaign calling student body presidents of universities nationwide to band together and raise awareness about the responsibilities and consequences of the legal drinking age of 21.

The campaign states, “As student leaders, we are frustrated by the culture of toxic drinking among our peers and want to take action to change it.”

Seiser said that FUSA will debate whether or not they will join the Get Real Campaign at a future Senate meeting. “I would anticipate signing on to this petition,” he said. If FUSA does sign the petition, Seiser said they would then write letters to Connecticut senators and legislators to raise discussion about the drinking age.

“I would hope that students and community members first acknowledge that there is a common interest here — to safeguard the health and well being of people,” said Pellegrino. “From there, we should think creatively about how this can best be accomplished.”

According to Pellegrino, “This is an issue that is important to all of us.  It is also one that many can have a role in addressing.   I expect we will see a strengthened discussion campus-wide in the upcoming months.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.