Faculty Council endorses 21-ordinance

BY MORGAN OLSEN | MARCH 10, 2010 7:30 AM

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The University of Iowa Faculty Council endorsed the 21-ordinance Tuesday, noting that alcohol abuse is “physically and mentally harmful, which reduces student learning.”

Victoria Sharp, the UI special assistant to the provost for alcohol safety, and UI Hospitals and Clinics emergency-room doctor Michael Takacs filled the projection screen with statistics comparing national and local drinking statistics.

Nationally, 65 percent of college students drink alcohol, while at the UI, 83 percent of students drink, according to survey results. The UI also has more than double the national binge drinking rate.

“This is something I feel very strongly about,” said Faculty Senate President David Drake. “These are our students, and we care deeply about them.”

Two drafts were circulated at the meeting — one supporting the 21-ordinance and the other encouraging faculty to schedule classes on Friday if possible and appropriate. Councilors passed both drafts.

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The document also noted that evidence supports increasing bar-entrance age to 21 will reduce alcohol abuse. Drake attributed the information cited in the draft to a national study, but he didn’t have access to the study on Tuesday. Some against the 21-ordinance have argued that raising bar entry age wouldn’t affect drinking.

One caveat to supporting the 21-ordinance was looking into providing additional weekend activities for students as alternatives to the bars.

“Decisions about these things has to be driven by the students,” said Thomas Rocklin, the UI interim vice president for Student Services. “Last fall, we had 11,500 students under 21 — we need to make sure they have entertainment, too.”

While the majority of Faculty Council members were in support of the 21-ordinance, some were wary.

“I think it’s absolutely inappropriate for Faculty Senate to vote on a political issue,” said council member Sheldon Kurtz, who personally supports the 21-ordinance. “I don’t believe this is part of the role we play.”

Drake fired back that the issue went beyond politics.

“I disagree — this is our students’ health and well-being,” he said. “It’s not a reasonable enough argument to prevent us from caring.”

The Faculty Council refrained from endorsing the 21-ordinance in 2007, when the proposal failed to garner enough support in a public vote.

Thursday night binge drinking was also a topic of discussion at Tuesday’s meeting.

Takacs presented his research of UI students admitted to the emergency room from 6 p.m. on Thursday to 6 a.m. on Friday. During the last school year, 69 students were admitted during that time span. That was down from 78 the year before.

Takacs attributed the decrease to the increasing number of Friday classes.

“It’s hard to know for sure if more Friday classes were the cause,” he said. “I do believe it has something to do with it.”

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