Last week DePauw University President Brian Casey joined 130 other chancellors and presidents of universities and colleges across the United States calling for a new focus on the problem of underage drinking.
Casey signed a public statement supporting the Amethyst Initiative, which urges elected officials to consider current alcohol policies and invites new ideas on ways to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol use.
The Amethyst Initiative began in early July. It supports informed and open debate on the 21-year-old drinking age.
Its focus is to encourage moderation and responsibility as an alternative to the drunkenness and reckless decisions about alcohol consumption.
The initiative started when John McCardell, President Emeritus of Middlebury College and Founder of Choose Responsibility, was asked to speak to the Annapolis Group, a group of approximately 120 liberal arts colleges.
He contacted several of his friends soliciting their opinion about the effects of the 21-year-old drinking age.
A common desire to have public debate over the drinking age caused them to develop of statement of their views.
While not prescribing a policy change, the statement does state the belief that the legal drinking age of 21 is not working well, and that its consequences pose increasing risks to young people.
It asks for a serious debate among elected officials to review the current policies and see if they are in line with reality.
Members of the group decided to widen their circle and invited college and university presidents and chancellors to join the effort.
The name Amethyst Initiative was chosen because amethyst is an ancient Greek derivative meaning not intoxicated.
According to mythology, Amethyst was a young girl who incurred the wrath of the god Dionysus after he became intoxicated with red wine.
Amethyst cried to the Goddess Diana for help. She turned the girl into a white stone. When Dionysus discovered what happened he cried and his tears fell into his wine goblet spilling the wine on the white rock, turning it purple.
In ancient Greece, the amethyst was believed to be an antidote to the negative effects of drinking. Jewelry and cups were often made of amethyst and used during feasts and celebrations to ward off drunkenness and to promote moderation.
Thus the group determined the amethyst was a meaningful symbol for its initiative, which aims to encourage moderation and responsibility as an alternative to drunken and reckless behavior and decisions.