The university and college presidents who signed the Amethyst Initiative (Star Tribune, Aug. 20) are right to support a "public" and "dispassionate" debate about the drinking age.

Discussing the reasons why 21 isn't working -- especially on college campuses -- can only have a positive effect on the promotion of safe and responsible drinking among young adults.

Underage students will continue to make their own decisions regarding alcohol and older students will continue to enable their drinking despite increased enforcement of legal sanctions for both. Besides, responsible drinking in college has more to do with the content of a person's character than the legal drinking age and the politics of enforcing it.

There will always be people who make bad decisions with respect to alcohol, hurting themselves and others in the process. However, with more responsible parenting and accessible education there is a far greater potential for ensuring the healthy development and safety of America's youth than with ineffective laws and scare tactics that reek of the failure of prohibition.

Instead of lambasting the integrity of these presidents, MADD and other supporters of 21 should join them in debate while respecting their understanding of the college drinking climate as well as their passion for making college campuses safer for all students.