UI officials attribute binge drinking dip to 21-ordinance


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University of Iowa officials said Iowa City’s 21-ordinance “contributed significantly” to a drop in students’ binge-drinking rate in the last two years.

The statement comes after results from the National College Health Association, released Wednesday, revealed there has been an 8 percent drop in binge drinking among UI students — the highest decrease in ten years.

“This shows how much progress the efforts around the university and community have made a difference,” said Tom Rocklin, UI vice president for student life. “The fact that we have fewer students engaging in high risk drinking means they’re going out and practicing safe behavior.”

Collected between spring of 2009 and 2011, the data show dangerous drinking behavior among students dropped 6 percentage points.

The report also showed the percentage of students who physically injure themselves due to alcoholic behavior dropped 29 percent, and a 22 percent increase in students who stayed beneath the legal limit the last time they drank.

Rocklin said he couldn’t determine a specific initiative that caused the decreases, but said a number of plans, such as the UI Alcohol Harm Reduction Plan released Dec. 6, and the 21-ordinance — enacted June 2010, contributed.

“I’m sure that setting the minimum bar entry age to 21 after 10 p.m. in Iowa City contributed significantly,” Rocklin said in a press release. “I’m also confident that at least some of the university actions we have taken in the past two years contributed.”

But these numbers do not convince everyone in the UI community.

Matt Pfaltzgraf, previous leader of Yes to Entertaining Students Safely, a group in opposition to the 21-ordinace said he believed the UI press-release is a bit incomplete because it covers the year before the ordinance went into effect.

Pfaltzgraf noted he believes UI students are adjusting to the university’s plans to reduces binge drinking.

“They’re shifting they’re behavior,” he said. “If you go to downtown before 10 p.m. you see these bars packed to the brim but as soon as 10 comes around they just empty out into the neighborhoods.”

Although the data was shown being collected in 2009 and again in 2011, Rocklin said UI officials are unsure of the actual binge drinking rate in 2010.

However— he said he is very confident the bulk of the decrease was between 2010 and 2011 while the 21-ordinance is in place.

Compared to students across the U.S. included in the study, UI students are still worse off in regards to all alcohol measuring, with the largest difference being high risk drinking — about 29 percent higher for the university.

Still, Robert Saltz, researcher at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation Berkeley, Calif who’s co-authored studies related to campus drinking, said the study shows a shift in the right direction for the university. He added he feels the efforts by UI officials may have been beneficial in adding to the overall decrease in binge drinking rates.

Saltz said the study should be taken as an accurate measure.

“Anytime you do these studies you have some random error, but 8 percent is a large enough number to be real at some level, he said.” “There’s good reason to believe its moving in the right direction.”

Kelly Bender, UI coordinator of Campus and Community Alcohol Harm Reduction Initiatives as of May 25, said the UI is moving in the right direction.

“A lot of initiatives have been put in place at the university that intended to have this effect,” Bender said. “We are certainly very encouraged that we have an initial foundation in place to move things forward.”

Bender added the drinking environment of students is constantly changing, so officials must continue to study these changes and monitor individual drinking habits.

UI officials also surveyed 875 students enrolled in Health and Physical Activity Skills courses related to their habits, behaviors, and perceptions of prevalent health topics. With a 98 percent response rate, results showed over 83 percent of students reported using alcohol in the 30 days prior to taking the survey — the lowest level in 20 years of data collection.

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