Ryan Chartrand

The surest way to make a young adult do something is to tell them not to. It stands to reason that college students who have escaped Mom and Dad’s watchful eyes are ready and willing to do everything they couldn’t at home.

But what if drinking alcohol wasn’t forbidden to the pre-college crowd?

The Amethyst Initiative is a petition signed by more than 100 university presidents and chancellors nationwide that supports lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18. It reasons that binge drinking would decrease if young people didn’t try to hide their alcohol consumption and thereby drink rapidly and unsafely.

It also acknowledges the obvious fact that students openly ignore the law and drink anyway. No one gets carded at a party, and most students think the law is irrational and willingly disregard it by buying booze for younger friends.

However, Cal Poly and its president Warren Baker openly oppose the initiative, saying that lowering the drinking age will result in more deaths among the under-21 demographic and more automobile accidents.

For a university with an above-average rate of alcohol consumption among its students, and among the highest in the CSU system, it seems odd that they wouldn’t want people to learn their tolerance before coming to college. After all, it reflects poorly on universities and supports the “Animal House” image of college being a nonstop party zone.

According to surveys taken of about 1,600 incoming students, 46.5 percent of Cal Poly students report drinking alcohol multiple times per week and 8.7 percent drink almost daily, the Mustang Daily reported in May.

It’s not like people magically become safe consumers of alcohol when they turn 21, or that they can’t be responsible if they are younger. In that one tick of the second hand that signifies the end to their outlaw days of drinking illegally, do they have wisdom imparted on them that convinces them to drink moderately and make good choices?

That would be nice, but the truth is, there’s absolutely no difference between an 18-year-old binge drinker and a 21-year-old binge drinker. It’s experience with alcohol that leads to good decisions; how many 30-year-olds get pulled over for driving under the influence?

Some assume that lowering the legal age will cause earlier binge drinkers.

Vice President of Student Affairs Cornel Morton told The Tribune that students would “be overwhelmed by the allowance of alcohol from the start of their college experience” and “developmentally, they’re not where they can do it safely.”

It’s unfair to assume that, given the chance, everyone will become a binge drinker. First of all, if someone underage really wants to drink, it’s not difficult; fake IDs and friends buying for friends are common occurrences.

And the current system does not prevent binge drinking at all; it encourages it. For example, think of a friend’s 21st birthday. Bartenders, friends and random strangers force as much alcohol into the newly-legalized drinker as they can, all because they were supposedly deprived for so long (though, realistically, have been drinking for many years prior to that).

If drinking loses the feeling of excitement and sticking it to the man, people may not abuse it so much. If people have supply when they have demand, they won’t feel so inclined to stock up. Since going off to college is often the spark that lights the flame of desire to drink, the drinking age should coincide.

Once the initial stage of drinking experimentation passes, most people retire to moderate consumption. A glass of wine with dinner or drinks with friends at a classy bar replace the beer bongs and keg stands, and there’s no reason that transition couldn’t happen earlier if the drinking age was lowered.

I could have become a chain smoker, given my roommates lung cancer and died from emphysema after I turned 18. But I didn’t. I could have become a binge drinker, foregoing classes and work for drinking with friends or by myself. But I didn’t.

The government shouldn’t assume the worst in people, it just shouldn’t assume the impossible.

Giana Magnoli is a journalism senior and the Mustang Daily managing editor.

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