CUMBERLAND — Local colleges are not signing on to the Amethyst Initiative, a group of more than 125 presidents of colleges requesting discussion for lowering the legal drinking age.

“I think that, most importantly, the Amethyst Initiative has its heart in the right place,” Jonathan Gibralter, president of Frostburg State University, said, “and that’s to affect college student drinking... I think everyone who has signed thinks it’s about time we had a dialogue about student drinking.”

However, Gibralter said he felt that a change in the legal drinking age, by lowering it to 18 as it was prior to 1984, would not result in the positive change the initiative hopes for.

Gibralter was asked to sign the initiative, but said he feels his university has already taken proactive steps in the matter, by including alcohol education as a mandatory class for freshmen. He added the university has been working more closely with local law enforcement.

He said he felt regardless of whether drinking alcohol before the age of 21 was legal or not, binge drinking would continue to be an issue for college students.

At Allegany College, the campus itself is a “dry campus,” according to Shauna McQuade, director of public relations and student recruitment.

“Our policy wouldn’t change (if the law did),” McQuade said. “We stand by that policy. It wouldn’t affect us either way.”

She added that many of the school’s commuter students live at home with their parents rather than those who have on-campus housing.

Garrett College is also a dry campus, and Paul Dauphinais, president, said he was remaining neutral on the issue that has raised controversy as it has grown more public.

“I’m going to follow the state law,” Dauphinais said. “I can see where some of the presidents are coming from. They have a different population than we do. We’re fine where it is, but if the law changed, we’d work with the new law.”

Rene Trezise, director of marketing and communications for Potomac State College, said Kerry Odell, campus provost, has said the college will act according with what is decided at West Virginia University, which the college is a division of, and at this time, this is an issue they are still making a decision on.

The initiative has come under some attack from groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), according to the MADD Web site, for promoting lowering the drinking age. The site claims that more than 25,000 people have been saved since the drinking age was raised to 21.

A statement from the National President Laura Dean-Mooney said, “Parents should think twice before sending their teens to these colleges or any others that have waved the white flag on underage and binge drinking policies.”

The site for the Amethyst Initiative said, however, that by prohibiting those 18-20 years of age, binge drinking has become something that is done often off campus. They also argue that by students using fake IDs and trying to obtain alcohol is reducing that age group’s respect for the law.

Contact Sarah Moses at smoses@times-news.com.

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