To: The St. Lawrence Community
From: President Daniel F. Sullivan
Date: August 21, 2008
Subject: The Amethyst Initiative
You’ve no doubt been following the news recently that St. Lawrence University, through my action after consultation with the Board of Trustees, has signed on to the Amethyst Initiative. Our sister institution, Clarkson University, also has signed on, and President Collins and I co-authored a statement that helps explain our position. I’d like to share that statement with you:
“Clarkson University and St. Lawrence University join over 100 colleges across the nation to support The Amethyst Initiative, which urges an informed and unimpeded debate on the 21-year-old drinking age. Its purpose is not to lower the drinking age, but rather to discuss how effective the current law has been.
“We joined the initiative because we believe that universities can most effectively engage students in developing personal accountability with alcohol when they are given opportunities to interact openly with their peers and other members of their community in socially responsible ways. Clarkson University and St. Lawrence University faculty, staff and students learn and live together in a highly collaborative community. We educate students both inside and outside the classroom. We fully abide by the legal-21 law with an admitted amount of frustration because we know that enforcement on our campus drives underage drinking out of public sight and limits opportunities to role model and encourage appropriate behavior with alcohol.
“All sides of the debate wish to avoid the negative consequences associated with poor choices around alcohol consumption, most significant among those being drunk driving. We endorse full enforcement of those laws.
“As a nation, however, we are not addressing the more systemic issue of excessive drinking among some cohorts of our youngest adults — adults with voting rights, adults serving our country in military uniform and adults building families in our communities. We have taken the easy road in trying to legislate behavior rather than focusing on teaching and instilling personal responsibility. As college educators, we are committed to promoting an open dialogue where responsible choices are respected, and where we role model the kinds of behavior we seek to inspire for a safe and well rounded campus life.
“The time for this kind of debate is now. Young adults across the country are engaged in the political process like never before and in exciting ways. Those of us on college campuses see their energy and their mature sense of purpose as they acknowledge their role as the future leaders to address many of the most critical issues of our time — global climate change and renewable energy, peace and civil justice around the world, and the creation of economic opportunities for all of humanity to live rewarding lives.
“Just as we support open dialogue about these critical issues impacting our society, our participation in the Amethyst Initiative is intended to bring alcohol issues out in the open, encourage productive conversations about the real issues we seek to address and work towards solutions that address the mutual concerns of all who are impacted by the personal decisions individuals make when they consume alcohol.”
I invite all members of the St. Lawrence community to join this important dialogue. As we meet over the fall semester, please share your thoughts with me, or visit the Amethyst Initiative Web site http://www.amethystinitiative.org and note ways that anyone can get involved so all voices can be heard.