McRobbie will not sign drinking age petition

President personally supports change

POSTED AT 01:10 AM ON Aug. 26, 2008 


IU President Michael McRobbie is not among the more than 100 college and university leaders who have signed a petition that argues the legal drinking age should be lowered to 18, even though he thinks the drinking age should be lowered.

“In his native land in Australia, the age is 18, and it is his belief that that’s a reasonable age for consumption of alcohol,” said IU spokesman Larry MacIntyre.

But MacIntyre said McRobbie has no plans to sign the petition.

“President McRobbie has his personal views, and he also speaks for the University,” MacIntyre said. “And in this particular instance, his personal view does not totally mesh with the position the University has taken for quite some time.”

To change the University’s position, McRobbie would have to confer with IU Trustees, University deans and state officials.

“I don’t think that’s on his list of priorities right now,” MacIntyre said.

Purdue President France Cordova did not sign the petition either. But Butler President Bobby Fong, Hanover College President Susan DeWine and Holy Cross College President Richard Gilman signed the petition, called the Amethyst Initiative. Notre Dame declined to take a position.

The Amethyst Initiative began in June 2008 when President Emeritus of Middlebury College John McCardell spoke with other local college presidents about the issue of underage drinking. McCardell is the founder of Choose Responsibility, an organization that encourages the discussion of 18 to 20 year-olds’ drinking habits.

The petition as is does not directly promote a policy change. But it does state that those who sign do not believe 21 works as a drinking age and its effects pose serious risks to young people.

One IU dean said such a change would have little effect on binge drinking.

“I don’t believe that changing the age has much impact on campus drinking,” said Gerardo Gonzalez, dean of the IU School of Education and an internationally recognized expert on alcohol and drug education. “There has to be a comprehensive approach, policy change, application and intervention. The community has an effect on the habit and just to focus on the drinking age misses the point that the research in the field has made.”

Gonzalez founded the Boost Alcohol Consciousness Concerning the Health of University of Students, or the BACCHUS Network, an organization that has grown to be the largest collegiate organization focused on preventing alcohol abuse on more than 900 campuses around the world.

Gonzalez hopes the initiative will foster a national debate about alcohol on college campuses.

IU requires all freshmen to complete online-based alcohol training before they step on campus for class.

Vice Provost of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Dick McKaig said the University is doing even more to fix a problem that is one of IU’s greatest.

“It is the No. 1 reason students are processed through the campus disciplinary system.” McKaig said.

IU hosts late-night programs, such as comedy shows and free movies, to give students other options, he said.

“There are many alternative programs to encourage students to do other things besides drinking,” McKaig said.

-Campus editor Lindsey Alexander and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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