Has the 21-ordinance changed UI's reputation?


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One year after Iowa City upheld its decision to keep its bar-entry age at 21, the University of Iowa is deep in the midst of a change in reputation.

In terms of the national perspective, however, it's apparent that the country still thinks Iowa is the place to be. We're still on the national radar when it comes to partying. In fact, earlier this year the university moved to fourth place on the Princeton Review's list of top "party schools."

Yet for those of us who live, work, study, and, yes, party in Iowa City, things aren't the same. The city's decision to maintain the 21-ordinance has changed the way university students and staff view the city they call home.

This change of image is very real. Talk to any student hungrily scouting the Pedestrian Mall for a place to party on a Friday night. They'll tell you. Iowa City's bars haven't gone away, but for the average student, the reality of bar-hopping as the go-to activity on weekend nights is steadily dwindling.

The UI is, out of circumstance, evolving into an increasingly "greek" school. Truth is, it has to. Underage admittance to the bars and pubs of the Iowa City extends only to 10 p.m., and for many, even then, it's not worth the risk or the coin. Thus, students are turning to other means of entertainment. This year, greek involvement has continued to grow: 700 women turned out for sorority recruitment this fall. In all likelihood, students will continue to turn toward fraternities and sororities in the dwindling y ears of a fading bar scene.

The university hasn't lost all of its pizzazz quite yet, and on the national stage, we still take the cake when it comes to partying. But the quiet reality is one that UI students are quite aware of: The rest of the country hasn't caught on yet. The university's reputation as a "bar" school is rooted in years of tradition. For now, we're still living off the afterglow of that fame.

We may very well continue to be seen as a party school, but has the nature of our image changed? Undoubtedly. The bars have quieted down, noticeably, and the university's rep as a school with an unrivaled bar scene is slowly dissipating.

Reality seems not to have fully hit just yet. For now, the university's image will most likely sustain itself off of what's left of the glory days.

— Samuel Cleary


It is not the buildings that make a city, nor is it the businesses that make the culture: It is the people. And the people in this city have not changed.

You can take a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink. Unless it is cheap vodka and the horse is a Hawkeye.

You can pass city ordinance after city ordinance restricting bars, restricting 19 year olds, restricting alcohol, but the student population, and arguably the alumni who come hand-in-hand, of Iowa City will find a way to slam down Prairie Fire shots for FAC.

Since the 21-ordinance, the city has touted lower PAULA rates and lower public-intoxication arrests in downtown. And it's true (depending on the time frame, I guess), but the parties have moved from the bars downtown to the houses on the fringe of campus. Frats fit their stereotypes by leading private and public "socials," which are home-style versions of Club Med or their counterparts in downtown Iowa City.

UI is still in the top 10 of party schools. It seems like my favorite statistic, but it's not, it's fact. We're No. 4 in the nation for party schools. There may be fewer arrests, but apparent party "experts" have pegged our city as the Sin City of the Midwest.

Things are not getting "better." The 21-ordinance is cracking as bars like Summit and Airliner lobby City Council for exceptions with positive results. The image remains the same.

Wanna get drunk? Let's go to Iowa City.

If the thought crosses your mind that things are different, that people are finally seeing us as a school above the general influence of its binge-drinking culture, then I suggest you look at the daily police blotter.

The first year of the 21-ordinance, there were 216 PAULAs, 81 open-container violations, 152 OWIs, and 479 public-intoxication violations — all on the UI campus.

On Nov. 5, 13 people were arrested, there were 36 open-container citations, three public-urination citations, and five people were transported to the Johnson County jail — all in the course of a three-hour football game. And that's just the UI police.

Our city's image isn't changing; we're just getting better at hiding our debauchery.

— Benjamin Evans

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