College presidents across the country continue to debate the best ways to curb binge drinking on campuses. Over 130 presidents have signed on to the Amethyst Initiative, launched in July, which calls for a “rethinking” of the current legal drinking age of 21.
University of Northern Iowa professor Katherine Van Wormer teaches addictions treatment courses and has long argued that the drinking culture in the United States could be changed by lowering the drinking age.
“I think that if we change the drinking age, and I would go with 16 rather than 18 for a lot of reasons, we could teach moderate drinking to children while they’re in high school, before they get to college,” Van Wormer said.
“I believe that would help tremendously in the college scene.” Van Wormer says countries in southern Europe with a lower drinking age have fewer problems with binge drinking and crimes related to alcohol.
Michael Kimmel is a sociology professor at Stony Point University in New York and the author of a recent book on binge drinking. He says it will take more than just lowering the drinking age to curb binge drinking on campuses.
“Universities have to step up and say ‘it’s not just a matter of whether we support a law for lower ages,'” Kimmel said. “We have to start working in our universities to basically reengage with student life…we have to start intervening in campus culture.”
Kimmel says a good example of intervention occurs at the University of Wisconsin, where underage students who are caught driving drunk on campus undergo an alcohol education program – along with their parents. Van Wormer and Kimmel made their comments on the Iowa Public Radio program “The Exchange.”