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Guest: Students should be open to the idea of 21-only

BY SAMUEL KONCHAR - GUEST OPINION | MARCH 25, 2010 7:30 AM

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We all know the stereotypes associated with our school. We love our football, and we love our downtown scene. It is no secret that Iowa City is a haven for having a good time. This isn’t news to anyone associated with the University of Iowa. Unfortunately, despite all the good times, there is a negative effect.

Our retention rate is the lowest in the Big Ten, and our reputation for recklessness has become national news over the last several years. I find it troubling that there is a larger effort to oppose the 21-ordinance than to elect a student to the City Council. At the core of this argument, students need to reconsider their priorities.

I don’t want to preach about what you do in your spare time. I go to the bars now. I did when I was underage. Many recognize that drinking is a component of college life. However, there is a time to consider what our actions create for our community’s future.

This spring, I have spoken to many state lawmakers about House File 2233, a recently signed law that would allow one-time offenders the chance to expunge PAULAs from their records. Most officials agreed with my stance that this law is appropriate, because we are all prone to mistakes during our youth. There is a caveat: If you want to be treated as a responsible adult in college, you must act like one.

This is but one step in rehabilitating a prevalent issue on all college campuses in Iowa. There is much work to be done — but I ask you now, as a fellow student, what should our focus be? To create Facebook groups complaining about how it is “unconstitutional” that the City Council, in the interest of preventing binge drinking and domestic violence, wants a 21-ordinance? No. To keep on repeating the circular argument that 21-only bars will translate into more house parties? No, last I checked, house parties still exist regardless of the bar-entry age.

What about the argument that alcohol can be regulated in a bar? I’d like someone to honestly tell me the last time they saw someone get cut off, because I can’t think of one. What students ought to do is open dialogue with our leaders in a constructive manner to improve our downtown facilities. What about a movie theater or a bowling alley? I think those types of activities have a proven market.

Plus, it takes away the stigma that downtown is only a place for drunkenness.

There is one more thought I’d like you to ponder. Bar owners play an important part in our local economy. There is no doubt bars will remain in our culture — and they should. Is it too much to ask bar owners to be responsible to the law? Iowa City, whether we like it, is not some sovereign entity.

While I understand owners have a major stake in this decision, I’m troubled that a few would bankroll efforts that essentially disregard state and federal statutes. What message does this send as a local business leader? Iowa state law mandates that the drinking age shall be 21. To echo the words of former U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, “My belief does not matter. It is the law. Some of you may believe the decision was wrong. That does not matter. It is the law.”

That may very well be what our City Council decides — to pass the 21-ordinance. If there is a referendum, I urge students and citizens alike to think about the future of our school and community, rather than indulge in the pleasures of the present. We must all work together if we desire to see improvement. But I believe our conscience will prevail and we can make efforts to promote responsible behavior at a world-class university.

Samuel Konchar is the government-relations liaison for UI Student Government.


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