Gee At Center Of College Drinking Controversy

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Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee is at the center of a controversy over whether the drinking age should be lowered from 21 to 18.

Gee joined roughly 100 other college presidents to support a proposal called the Amethyst Initiative that asks lawmakers to reconsider the nation's drinking laws, 10TV's Kevin Landers reported.

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Supporters of lowering the drinking age say keeping it at 21 simply prompts underage drinkers to go underground by having someone else buy them booze, or use fake identification. Some believe the surreptitious nature of how college students get alcohol encourages binge drinking, a major concern on many campuses, including Ohio State.

Lowering the drinking age is seen as a way of bringing alcoholic consumption by college students out in the open and encouraging responsible drinking.

The university said Gee does not necessarily believe the drinking age should be lowered, but that he "strongly believes that a comprehensive review of public policy related to responsible drinking is needed and that all aspects of our current approach should be thoroughly examined, analyzed and debated."

"I want to raise debate," Gee said. "I'm a guy who believes what we need is to have a conversation about the best way to deal with this issue."

The group Mothers Against Drunk Driving said Gee made a mistake by giving his support to the Amethyst Initiative.

"We actually called upon university presidents to withdraw their names from this list, this initiative," said Doug Scoles, executive director of MADD Ohio.

Research has shown that raising the drinking age reduced drunken-driving fatalities, and groups like MADD fear that allowing 18-year-olds to consume alcoholic beverages legally will only lead to more deaths.

Critics also fear that lowering the drinking age will shift problems to younger teens, exacerbating binge drinking among high-school students.

Still, Gee said current attempts to curb underage drinking and alcohol abuse were not getting the job done.

"We realize there is a very serious problem of alcohol abuse on university campuses," Gee said. "I've been president at five universities and every one of the m has had alcohol abuse."

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