Nearly 100 college presidents support a proposal to lower the drinking age from 21 to 18, but University of Iowa President Sally Mason is not among them. Mason says there are already too many underage college students drinking illegally, adding, drunk students have been involved with assaults and unwanted sexual advances.
The U-of-I recently rated among the nation’s top "party" schools. Students at Iowa’s largest university, like Caitlin Polz, of Elk Grove, Illinois, aren’t convinced it would be wise to drop the drinking age to 18.
"I kind of feel like it’s like that already. People are underage drinking all the time. I think it might go a little crazy. I don’t know if it would be the best idea because I can see kids going nuts."
Since 1984, the legal age to buy and drink alcohol in Iowa has been 21. Another U-of-I student, Karson Rumpf, of Johnston, says he’s in favor of the proposal. Rumpf says, "I think people do it more because they like to rebel sometimes and they like to do things they’re not used to doing, so I think it’s a very good idea."
The Amethyst Initiative, supported by dozens of college presidents, calls on lawmakers to debate the effectiveness of the 24-year-old law, which could mean lowering the legal age to 18, the same age when people can vote or join the military. Iowa City Police Sergeant Troy Kelsay thinks lowering the age would only add to the college town’s problems.
Kelsay says, "If you go downtown on any given Thursday, Friday or Saturday night, now you’ll see that there are a lot of persons, 19 and 20-year-olds, who are now illegally drinking." Iowa City bars admit the underage patrons but are supposed to prevent them from drinking alcohol. Charged with overseeing nearly 400 high school students at Iowa City City High, Principal Mark Hanson thinks lowering the age limit is a bad idea that may mean even younger students will start drinking.
Hanson says: "Basically they’ve just been driving for a couple of years. If they are able to get the alcohol legally and start experimenting with that and then get behind the wheel of a car, that’s a whole other issue."
That issue has organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving outraged that college presidents would even consider the idea. Among all statewide colleges, only the president of Coe College has given his support to the proposal, saying he believes further research by the group might help identify solutions.