The Arizona Desert Lamp

Column on Get REAL in today’s Wildcat

Posted in Campus, Culture, Politics by Evan Lisull on 3 November 2009

Get REALThe Internet-People declare: All your Paper are belong to us! Ben Kalafut had a piece on Proposition 400 in yesterday’s paper (and if you’re a Tucson voter, take the time to read his excellent breakdowns of the other propositions – 200, 401, and 402); today, Laura was kind enough to find a spot for our tilting at the windmills of Legal Age 21.

Writing the piece also served as a reminder of one of the benefits of blog format – no word limits! Sure, this allows for a lot of run-on and obsessive inquiries to little end, but it also prevents necessary clarification of certain lines.

One that particularly sticks out is the mention of President Shelton’s refusal to sign the Amethyst Initiative, an item that this site first reported in its infancy, over a year ago. Yet reading it through again (older, wiser!), Shelton’s dismissal of the Initiative comes off as even more venal than before. Here is what signatories of the initiative pledge to do:

To support an informed and dispassionate public debate over the effects of the 21 year-old drinking age.

To consider whether the 10% highway fund “incentive” encourages or inhibits that debate.

To invite new ideas about the best ways to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol.

We pledge ourselves and our institutions to playing a vigorous, constructive role as these critical discussions unfold.

Here was President Shelton’s response (with emphasis added):

Underage drinking in general and binge drinking specifically are serious concerns for our society and certainly at universities where so many young people in the 18-20 age group are present.  It is wise to think about, plan and execute programs that address these problems.  From my perspective, I do not believe the issue is sufficiently simple to be solved by lowering the drinking age.  I have not signed the petition.  The studies with which I am familiar indicate that starting to drink earlier can lead to more problematic behavior in later life.  At the UA, we address these issues through education and programs to inform and assist students.  I offer a list of some of our interventions below as provided by the VP for Student Affairs.

But there’s nothing in the Initiative which makes any President beholden to any drinking age! All it wants is a critical conversation, with honest airing out of facts. Instead, President Shelton alludes to “studies” with absolutely vague conclusions (so much for scientific rigor), and lists of a list of bureaucratic forms that make other health-ranking bureaucracies happy. He fails to mention the issue of the highway fund, although I suspect he’d drop the drinking age to twelve if it got some money from the state legislature. His response is the antithesis of an “informed and dispassionate debate.”