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Alcohol busts in dorms down

BY MICHELLE McCONNAUGHEY | JANUARY 18, 2011 7:10 AM

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Partiers in the University of Iowa residence halls seem to be simmering down — and officials say it’s likely because they don’t want to face the hefty fines for getting caught with alcohol.

Data from UI Director of Housing and Dining Von Stange show a drastic decrease in the number of alcohol-related violations between the fall semesters of 2008 and 2010. The trend is at odds with overall liquor-law violations in Iowa City prior to the 21-ordinance, which went into effect in the summer of 2010.

During the 2010 fall semester, nine students were issued alcohol-container violations in the dorms, down from 40 in the fall of 2008. Along with this, the number of students caught in the presence of alcohol dropped from 89 to 77, and cases of underage possession of consumption decreased from 122 to 59, according to Stange’s data.

“We’ll never hit a point where [the drinking violations] will go away,” said Assistant Director of Residence Life Kate Fitzgerald. “I think there’d be something wrong if we have that.”

Meanwhile, the number of arrests by UI police for liquor-law violations jumped from 109 between Jan. 31 through Sept. 30, 2009, to 534 during the same period of 2010. Police have said arrests and citations have decreased since the 21-ordinance was implemented.

Money seems to be the common denominator.

Fitzgerald cited financial struggles among UI students as a possible reason for this decrease in the number of alcohol violation in residence halls. In the fall of 2009, the punishment for hosting a party in a dorm room increased from $500 to $700, and the penalty for drinking in the dorms jumped from $200 to $330. Students who used to receive a warning for being in the presence of alcohol could be fined up to $200.

“A $700 fine is not worth it to me,” said UI freshman Stephanie Devivo. “I would honestly rather just go out with all of my friends to a big party at a house than risk getting caught with a couple of people in the dorms.”

And students said many of their peers preferred to drink in their dorm rooms earlier, often before going out.

“Most people that I know who drink in the dorms do it to ‘pregame’ before they actually go out,” said UI freshman Alisan Goetz. “They usually do that because they think the RAs are more likely to catch them drinking around later hours than around 6-8 p.m. I would personally rather spend a few extra bucks on a drink [at a bar] than a fine.”

A second-year RA said she’s also noticed the decrease.

“There is definitely a drop this past semester compared with the 2009-2010 school year. Last year, I would see large groups of noticeably intoxicated students gather in the lobby about to go out, but this year I haven’t seen much of that,” said UI senior Maggie Roque, an RA in Burge. “Don’t get me wrong, you still see groups of underage drinkers around, but they are nothing compared with previous years.”


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