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Free bus route to mall symbolic, offers opportunities

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | AUGUST 24, 2009 7:05 AM

As UI officials continue in their attempts to combat underage drinking, one recent move might add a fun and easy way to do just that. This fall, the university has paired with the Coralville Transit System to allow students to ride free to the Coral Ridge Mall on Thursday and Friday nights.

The new option isn’t earth-shattering in its complexity, but the UI should be applauded for its effort to halt the problems associated with binge drinking. Beyond the important social concerns, this new development provides students with a great opportunity to have a safe, fun night, while reinforcing the notion that there are ways to have fun without downing Jäger bombs and Keystone Lights.

At Sunday’s convocation, The Daily Iowan spoke with a few incoming freshmen about the new program. After initial surprise, those the DI spoke to were interested in using the service.

“I will probably use it now that I know about it,” Reid Overton said.

The opportunity to use the service for entertainment is what appeals to Scott Thayer.

“I will use it to see movies all the time now,” he said.

Nathan Shaughnessy said he was skeptical about the program’s efficacy in stymieing alcohol overconsumption, but he still backed the new idea.

“It seems like a sweet option,” he said. “It’s not like I want to walk to the mall.”

While the move is substantive in its effort to curb drinking, its significance is also symbolic: In implementing such an option, UI officials can claim with greater ease that their anti-binge-drinking rhetoric isn’t empty. In addition, it promotes safety and smarter decisionmaking among newly minted freshman. Drinking on college campuses should not come as a shock to anyone who has experienced or understands the cultural and social pressures college students face. Those entering freshman year are at significant risk because of the unhealthy habits that can be formed and perpetuated for years to come. Consequently, reaching college students early with opportunities can potentially make a dent in distressing statistics such as this: Young adults between the ages of 18 to 24 are more likely than any other age group to have problems with heavy or high-risk drinking, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The UI Student Government and the Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students should also be commended for supporting the nascent program, regardless of its simplicity. If any amount of progress on this systemic issue is to be had, students must be on the forefront of like-minded plans in the future. The officials in charge of the Coralville Transit System should also be thanked for their cooperation with the university. When community leaders in any position of power choose to become active in socially imperative matters, the example they set in their involvement is beneficial to the city and university writ large.

The problems we face regarding underage and binge drinking will take time and resources to solve. Nevertheless, it’s somewhat comforting to know that the community and university are thinking of solutions that — however small in fashion — will move dialogue forward and increase entertainment opportunities for students.


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