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Friday, August 22, 2008

The Amethyst Initiative: an Open Letter

I just sent the following letter to the president of my undergraduate alma mater, Franklin & Marshall College, urging him to sign the Amethyst Initiative. The Initiative seeks to encourage a national debate on the legal drinking age. As I note in my letter, signing the Initiative does not commit a president to supporting a lower drinking age; it says that they support open debate on the issue. In turn, I urge you to send a similar letter/e-mail to the president of your alma mater; if they've already signed, send them a note of support, because MADD is evidently starting up a campaign to deluge them and their boards with negative mail. This is important. The 21 LDA is not working; dangerous drinking is taking place at campuses at an alarming rate, and those bad practices continue after graduation. We need to discuss how to change the drinking culture in the U.S., and this is a terrific place to start.
(Oh, and...apparently President Fry's on vacation; I got an auto-response to my e-mail that he was out of the office for a few weeks and would respond as soon as he could. I look forward to it.)

Dear President Fry,

As a Franklin & Marshall alumnus, Class of 1981, I would like to encourage you to consider signing the Amethyst Initiative ( I'm sure you're familiar with it after the nationwide coverage the initiative received this week: the Initiative seeks to encourage an honest, open, unemotional debate on the legal drinking age, currently a de facto national level at the age of 21.

Signing the Initiative does not commit you to any policy -- a lower drinking age, changes in drinking age enforcement, alcohol education programs, etc. It merely says that you encourage an open discussion of a policy and a federal mandate that is, right or wrong, all too tragically not working. MADD and other groups have characterized Initiative signatories as having "waved the white flag on underage and binge drinking policies," and are attempting to intimidate signatories into removing their names. I'm proud to note that this campaign has been completely ineffective; instead, as of this morning, 23 more college presidents have added their names to the Initiative.

Why not join them? If a policy has failed this badly, open debate -- on why it has failed and whether it can be made effective or should be changed -- is a positive and healthy approach. The Amethyst Initiative seeks to encourage that debate in an atmosphere clear of emotion, fear, and personal attacks. What could be more fitting in academia? Please consider lending your support to this call for debate.

Lew Bryson '81


kramer said...

E-mail sent to Temple University. This seems like a great concept.

Unknown said...


Great idea! I'll zap a note along to my alma mater... the second in a week. The last one was on a vary similar topic-- I saw Joseph Califano spewing his new-dry line on the Newshour, and got offended at how he was dropping Columbia's name and using its credibility for his BS head-in-the-sand policy prescriptions. I shot a letter off to the president of Columbia asking what value this kook adds to the university, and pledging not to contribute to the annual fund while Califano is still affiliated with the place.

Anonymous said...

Luckily, the president of my current employer was a primary signatory.

I'll have to check on my undergrad...

Rich said...

Lew, I saw that site recently and my initial thought was that it is so non-committal its not funny. It's saying, hey, let's talk about it...but that's it. It doesn't even propose a time or venue for these "discussions" to take place. Then...once they do...what happens next? They all go back to their posh university offices and NOTHING happens?

To me, it's a very small step in the correct direction...a VERY, SMALL step.

Lew Bryson said...

It's the same thing I'm trying to do with the PLCB blog: just get people talking about it. The New Drys are trying to quash the debate before it starts. They're scared, they're angry. They can't debate, they can only scream. The college prez signatories are not necessarily all in favor of an 18 LDA. What they ARE saying is that the 21 LDA and the constellation of laws around it is not working...and we need to talk about why, and about what else we might do. Lowering the LDA to 18 is a logical place to start. As I've said, I have a plan to cut underage drinking by more than half overnight: lower the LDA to 18. It would work, too. Don't agree? Well, then, it's time for debate. Talking it over rationally is the only place to start. Signing on and saying it should be talked about is a necessary first step, given the poisonous attitude of the opposing side.