Faculty Senate backs 21-only bars

BY MORGAN OLSEN | MARCH 24, 2010 7:30 AM

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Fewer than two weeks after the University of Iowa Faculty Council endorsed the city’s proposed 21-ordinance, the Faculty Senate followed suit on Tuesday.

The senators were also confronted with a draft that encourages faculty members to schedule more Friday classes in an effort to reduce Thursday night drinking.

The Faculty Senate, which is a larger group than the council, voted unanimously in favor of both resolutions.

“I’m sick of people asking why the faculty aren’t speaking up,” President David Drake said. “We need to make a stand and acknowledge that things aren’t getting better.”

He iterated what he told the Faculty Council before spring break, saying the 21-ordinance is not just a political issue but an issue of student health in which faculty should have a say.

“It’s a public-health issue,” said Faculty Senator Scott Wilson, a clinical professor of internal medicine. “Our support is a move to make UI safer for students.”

Several senators expressed concern that closing bars to underage students would only send them into the neighborhoods and binge drinking wouldn’t be curbed.

“Those questions have been posed to the Iowa City police chief,” Drake said. “The police are aware of the possibility and said they are ready for it and can control it.”

Faculty Senate Secretary Katherine Tachau, a history professor, said house parties away from downtown could be beneficial for the police in some ways.

“I think the police are very concerned that part of what’s happening now is so many people are coming downtown and creating a mob scene and increasing violence,” she said. “It may be better to have students disperse in smaller groups.”

Victoria Sharp, the special assistant to the provost for alcohol safety, presented the Senate with city-specific information on risky drinking. One slide illustrated the bar geography of the city, a map filled with overlapping red circles indicating the 500 foot radius of each bar.

According to her, the high concentration of the bars downtown indicates how prevalent the drinking situation has become.

“We’re not here to debate the legal drinking age,” Sharp said. “We’re just pointing out the discrepancy between the legal drinking age and the bar-entrance age.”

Michael Takacs, a UI clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine, confirmed that many of the students who end up in the emergency room after too much drinking are underage.

“We’re seeing 18-year-olds come into the ER with bar wristbands on,” Takacs said. “My fear is that some students are going back to their dorms with blood-alcohol levels that could cause death.”

Drake is pleased with the Senate’s support, he said, but there’s not much more the Senate can do.

“We have to be careful how involved we get,” he said. “We can urge faculty to get out and vote if the decision goes to a ballot, but there’s not much more we can do but show our support.”

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