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Guest: Changing Iowa City stereotypes one night at a time

BY MARCUS CAVANAGH - GUEST OPINION | MARCH 04, 2010 7:30 AM

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“What school do you go to?”

“I go to Iowa.”

“Oh, I bet you have fun up there.”

“Yeah, it’s a blast.”

“I bet you get wasted a lot, huh?”

This tends to be a typical conversation when I get back home for the holidays, spring break, or the summer. I do not know about others out there, but I am pretty tired of the stereotype that if you go to Iowa, you are automatically a heavy drinker.

Despite the stereotype, I have gotten to know some pretty cool people who do not get slammed on their weekends. I met some of these people on my first SOBAR (Students Organizing for Better Alcohol Responsibility) outing on Feb. 20, from 10:30 p.m. until close at One-Eyed Jakes.

At first I was a little hesitant to go, wondering if many people were going to show up and whether this would be worth the effort. But after being a part of 30-plus people on SOBAR, I will continue to support and go to the monthly outings downtown.

I was shocked to see all the participants who came, and at one short time, we seemed to cover over half the dance floor at One-Eyed Jakes. The cool thing about it was no one really noticed that we were part of the SOBAR group. Yes, we all wore blue to represent SOBAR, but we all fit in like everyone else.

We were not going around trying to preach that you are a bad person if you drink over your limits.

We just want people to know that there is a group for those who want to dance and have an enjoyable time downtown, who want to go with a group that doesn’t pressure them to keep drinking, who want to change the bingeing culture and take responsibility for their alcohol decisions.

It can be very hard for freshmen to adapt to a drinking environment such as Iowa City’s. Night Games is a great organization for students to go enjoy some exercise with friends. But it is only once a month, which is not enough for those who choose not to drink. I have always loved going downtown to dance, but it was sometimes hard to find people to go downtown with who just wanted to dance and socialize. We do not want that to be a problem anymore for students. We will not force you to change your behavior. SOBAR wants you to enjoy yourself downtown with a cool group of people who are just like you.

UI administrators and the City Council have tried to fix the drinking problem in Iowa City, but the situation has not improved. Right now, we need support from the ones who are getting blamed for this atmosphere: the students. We need to show citizens in Iowa City and the state that there are students here who are willing to make a change.

When UI junior Greg Pelc started SOBAR, he did not care about its popularity or its size; he wanted to empower students to make better decisions and avoid the negative consequences that come with drinking. With SOBAR, students can have a great time while contributing to the improvement of our community.

Maybe you haven’t found something here that has fit you. Try SOBAR. It won’t hurt. Maybe you will meet a great friend. And who knows? The next time you hear someone talk about how terrible Iowa City can get at night, you can tell them about the SOBAR group that you are in, a group trying to make a change one night at a time.

Marcus Cavanagh is a UI junior. Those interested in learning more about SOBAR or attending a future event can e-mail: gregory-pelc@uiowa.edu or marcus-cavanagh@uiowa.edu.


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