KCC chancellor seeks discussion on alcohol
The school leader joins a nationwide effort to re-examine the effect of the current drinking age
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Kapiolani Community College Chancellor Leon Richards has joined about 118 other college and university leaders publicly calling for a debate on the current 21-year-old drinking age for alcohol.
Richards is the first Hawaii college leader to sign the Amethyst Initiative, an online petition stating that the current drinking age is not working and inviting new ideas to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol use.
"MADD in Hawaii is disappointed that Kapiolani Community College would join that list," said Carol McNamee, founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Hawaii.
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As an educator, Kapiolani Community College Chancellor Leon Richards says he wants to encourage students and faculty to talk about alcohol use and whether the current 21-year-old drinking age is working.
Richards joined the presidents of Duke, Ohio State, Dartmouth and more than 100 other college and university leaders in signing a statement supporting "an informed and dispassionate public debate on the effects of the 21-year-old drinking age."
The statement, called the Amethyst Initiative, says that the current drinking age is not working and has led to dangerous binge drinking.
"There are things that we cannot prevent," Richards said. "But if we educate, at least the idea of being responsible for one's actions, I think we're doing students a service."
Carol McNamee, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Hawaii, said the organization is not against a debate on alcohol policies.
However, she said, "I think that the presidents (who signed the initiative) may be relying on incomplete or misinformation when making the decision that there is a serious need to revisit the issue."
McNamee said there is evidence that young people who choose to drink early have a much greater chance of developing alcohol problems later in life.
"If we lower the drinking age to 18, then we know that young people are going to be drinking more alcohol earlier," she said.
Richards said he is not necessarily in favor of lowering the drinking age, but he does want faculty and students at Kapiolani Community College to talk about alcohol use from different perspectives.
He noted that Kapiolani has many international students, and alcohol use varies in other countries and cultures.
"Let's have this discussion. Let's have this debate, get views from students, get views from community members," Richards said.
He said current rules that generally prohibit the use of alcohol on campus will remain in effect and continue to be enforced.
Richards said as far as he knows, binge drinking is not a problem on campus, although it might occur off campus.
"What we want is to educate our students to be responsible adults," Richards said. "Knowing that students will drink, then how are we to be responsible or educate them to be responsible?"
According to the Amethyst Initiative Web site, "Adults under 21 are deemed capable of voting, signing contracts, serving on juries and enlisting in the military, but are told they are not mature enough to have a beer."
The name of the initiative is derived from Greek words meaning "not intoxicated." The amethyst gemstone was believed to be an antidote to the negative effects of intoxication.