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Students: move on from pro-21 result, mobilize on larger issues

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | NOVEMBER 05, 2010 7:20 AM

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Iowa City is going to the dumps, the incensed say. Students aren't going to have any more fun. Bars are going to close, and everyone is going to lose her or his job. A few days after the election, it's clear many haven't accepted the outcome of the 21-ordinance vote.

But boycotting, protesting, and creating childish Facebook groups isn't going to solve anything. This petulant rhetoric and action needs to stop.

While we were divided as an Editorial Board on the issue, the 21-ordinance has been voted upon and is here to stay. Rather than take overzealous action and focus on the past, students — and the community as a whole — need to move on and turn their attention toward other areas of concern.

Iowa City is diverse, with people of all ages, religions, ethnicities, education levels, and backgrounds; this community is not solely defined by its drinking age and nightlife. And while student turnout was heartening, there are more pressing issues than getting shellacked on Friday night. Take higher education funding.

If you're a habitual Opinions page reader, you know we've consistently criticized the sharp drop in state funding for public higher education. It's an issue that should infuriate all students, yet it is consistently overshadowed by more myopic concerns like the bar-entry age.

Here are the numbers: While the University of Iowa's spending has increased by about five times in the past 30 years, tuition and fees have jumped a stunning 14 times. Meanwhile, the state has gone from funding 76 percent of the state's budget 30 years ago to just 41 percent in the 2009-10 school year. Private dollars now account for a majority of the university's general fund.

UI Student Government President John Rigby has rightly denounced these cuts, but a UISG-led push to combat tuition hikes needs staunch student support. While most students would favor lower tuition, we haven't shown the state Board of Regents and administrators we care enough to mobilize.

The only way to reverse the trend is implacable, sustained student advocacy. Students and UISG leaders must work together.

Rigby has suggested a writing campaign, and students should participate. But that's insufficient.

Protests and rallies are needed, as are visits to the state Capitol. UISG should bring down scores of students to lobby their legislators. There was an amazing voter turnout among young voters in this last election. This enthusiasm should carry over to the larger issues and into future elections, especially on education issues.

The city is also facing issues that should concern residents. There are constant parking problems downtown. Meter prices fluctuate from location to location. Iowa City Transit needs Sunday routes. Rent is, as famed New York gubernatorial hopeful Jimmy McMillan would pithily put it, too damn high — both for students and low-income residents.

The students and community both have paramount issues to confront, and 21-ordinance obstinacy only hinders the effort to address them. Mourning and ex post facto debating of the results merely obfuscates larger, relevant issues.

It would be foolish not to acknowledge the controversial nature of the 21-ordinance. For many, it will be difficult to accept the results. But, contentious or not, students and community members need to move forward. This issues still confronting us are too big not to.


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