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UI student: The 21-ordinance and student rage

BY JOSH BUCHSBAUM - GUEST OPINION | APRIL 20, 2010 7:30 AM

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Let’s start with the fact that the 21-ordinance is obviously going to be voted down.

An initiative by a student group has already been started. Only 2,500 signatures are needed to get a public vote. Anyone remember what happened in 2007, when voters resoundingly rejected the ordinance? Iowa City voters are not messing around. They know what they want.

That being said, why is the age of entrance for regulated and reasonably safe bars such an important issue? Is Iowa City completely free of violence? Sexual harassment? Homelessness? Crime?

It can be argued that if those who are under 21 are allowed to be in a bar, they will be enticed to drink, thus encouraging illegal underage drinking. This argument assumes that barring 19- and 20-year-olds from bars will stem underage drinking.

I believe this argument to be completely false, and I would like to call upon the great American wit of wrestler Colin Delaney’s “conservation of rage” theory. The theory explains that rage can neither be created nor destroyed. It will just perpetuate itself in different forms.

The voting population clearly agrees with this. Not only did the ordinance get voted down, but the community also actively campaigned against it.

The 21-ordinance provides a perfect example of the proportional shift that happens when means of rage change.

Eighteen-, 19-, and 20-year-old college students have similar interests and rage potential, regardless of the law concerning bar-entrance age. If they are not permitted in one place, these students will go to another place. Underage drinking will persist, but via alternate areas. The age of those allowed in bars is not the catalyst for underage drinking.

Rather than focusing on preventing students from acting on their rage potential, the City Council should focus its efforts on safe rage alternatives. Fiscal support for student organizations, support for local festivals, and other alternative activities to drinking are all more positive solutions to the problem. The above activities provide fun and constructive activities for active underage students to participate in.

I am not an expert, so my solutions may not be the best. But I do know that any consideration of change from the status quo should also consider the possible consequences.

Where will people that are underage but still feel the need to drink go? Probably places less safe than the bars, which are conveniently patrolled by the good folks at the Iowa City Police Department. Or maybe they will force their way into the bars by buying a fake ID, possibly contributing to the Iowa City black market.

There are so many possible situations that result from not allowing some college students in bars that will decrease the overall safety on campus. And according to the “conservation of rage” theory, the 21-ordinance will not have any effect on underage drinking. Oh yeah, and the student body will probably keep voting it down.

The City Council must stop dwelling on such insignificant issues and move on to constructive, progressive policies. And if the 21-ordinance continues to be the City Council’s only solution to underage drinking, couldn’t councilors at least throw in a grandfather clause for us 20-year-old college students who have been going to the bars responsibly for at least a year?

Josh Buchsbaum is a UI junior.


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