Genshaft won’t take the Initiative

USF is staying out of the drinking age debate.

President Judy Genshaft’s name will probably never appear on the Amethyst Initiative — a public statement that opens a national debate about the legal drinking age — University officials said.

“There would have to be a lot of evidence that it would be helpful to sign that legislation,” said USF spokesman Michael Hoad.

This public statement, signed by 129 university presidents and chancellors nationwide, expresses that “the problem of irresponsible drinking by young people continues despite the minimum legal drinking age of 21, and there is a culture of dangerous binge drinking on many campuses,” according to its Web site, The statement does not offer any solutions to the problem but encourages higher education leaders to debate the topic and propose policy changes.

The University, however, does not believe that a public statement is going to solve the underage drinking problem. Since a majority of students live off campus, any campaigns to encourage this debate wouldn’t address the problem, Hoad said.

If Genshaft were to sign the public statement, USF would stand out on the list of 129 colleges, most of which are smaller schools.

“If you look at the list, it’s mostly private schools. Not a whole lot of public schools,” said Lara Wade, director of media relations.

It does, however, boast several prominent names such as Ohio State University, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University and Syracuse University.

Arthur F. Kirk, president of St. Leo University, signed the Amethyst Initiative.

The best way to combat dangerous binge drinking is to talk about it, he said.

“It is very important that we have an open, national discussion because the law isn’t working well enough,” Kirk wrote in a statement. “It isn’t stopping students from drinking, and there is some evidence it may be contributing to binge drinking occurring off campuses.”

St. Leo, a small Catholic university, is located about 40 minutes north of USF.

Anti-alcohol groups have criticized the petition and some presidents have recently removed their names from its list of signatories, according to an article in The New York Times.

However, Susan Shoulet, director of public relations at St. Leo, said the school has not received any reactions from the student body or community.

Regardless of the support for the petition, USF will take no action for or against changing the drinking age, Hoad said.

“If it happens, we will deal with it. But we aren’t going to lobby it,” he said. “Legislation isn’t going to solve the binge-drinking problem.”