John McCardell, president emeritus of Middlebury College in Vermont, organized the initiative. Eight presidents helped draft the statement this summer, and the group then invited presidents of all four-year colleges and universities to sign on.
Mr. McCardell is also president of Choose Responsibility. The nonprofit advocates removing the 1984 law that withholds 10 percent of a state's federal highway funds if it sets a drinking age lower than 21. He says he'd like to see alternatives considered, such as a license to allow drinking by 18-year-olds who have graduated from high school and have obeyed alcohol laws.
The Amethyst Initiative website states that the signatories advocate a debate but not necessarily a change in the law. But McCardell's dual roles have led some to see little distinction between the two agendas.