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UI officials balk at party school rankings

BY MADELINE SAVOIE | AUGUST 21, 2012 6:30 AM

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No. 4 no more.

The University of Iowa moved up on the Princeton Review’s top 20 party schools list this year by two spots, despite many recent initiatives to combat the binge drinking culture at the university.

“We find it amazing that any one pays attention to such an unscientific, invalid survey,” UI spokesman Tom Moore said. “There’s no validity to it whatsoever.”

President Sally Mason offered no statement Monday evening.

UI freshman Will Hean said he knew the UI was considered a party school but was surprised to hear about the university’s new ranking.

“It’s great the world knows we’re having fun,” he said.

Leah Cohen, the owner of Bo-James, 118 E. Washington St., said she is not surprised by the new ranking, despite efforts to reduce excessive drinking, including the 21-ordinance and the Iowa City police Party Patrols.

“Iowa has always been known as a party school, and it is going to take a number of years to reduce,” she said.

Though the UI jumped in the rankings, the statistics do show some changes on and near campus.

In fact, the number of several alcohol-related charges decreased for the first weekend of this academic year compared with the first weekend last year.

Iowa City police issued 23 PAULA citations this past weekend, down from the 38 issued during the first weekend last year. The number of citations officials doled out for the use of fake IDs over the first weekend decreased from 12 in 2011 to just one this year.  Charges for presence in a bar after hours also decreased from 10 in 2011 to three this year.

Further, according to data gathered by the Iowa Community-Integrated Geography Organization, the alcohol culture has also shifted geographically in Iowa City.

Between the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years, PAULA citations by Iowa City police declined more than 46 percent, and public-intoxication citations dropped more than 17 percent. However, disorderly house charges jumped by nearly 70 percent in that time. Overall, the group’s work demonstrated alcohol-related crime diminished in downtown Iowa City while increasing in residential areas dominated by college students.

And after the 21-ordinance went into effect in June 2010, several downtown bars closed, including Vito’s, Jakes, and Firewater. One year after the ordinance, the number of UI students going to the emergency room for alcohol-related emergencies dropped by 16 percent.

Still, UI sophomore Berkley Grimm, an Iowa City native who transferred North Dakota State University, said he has noticed a prominent party scene.

“I was out Friday, and the streets were just flooded with people,” he said.

But UI officials maintained the Princeton Review ranking is not representative of the situation on campus.

Moore pointed to numbers from the 2012 National College Health Assessment Data, citing that the percent of students who reported drinking in the past 30 days is at the lowest level in the last 20 years. In 2011, 83.2 percent of students reported drinking in the last 30 days and in 2012, 79.9 reported drinking in that time frame.

Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek said the Princeton Review ranking is “nothing to be proud of” and slow, steady progress is being seen.

“I think we should take stock of the progress made,” he said. “The efforts of the university and the city have shown positive movement on reductions of high risk drinking.”

Ultimately, officials said, the ranking change has no bearing on their efforts.

“We don’t change strategies based on rankings like these,” said Kelly Bender, the UI’s campus-community harm-reduction initiatives coordinator. “It creates community awareness, which is positive, but we know the problem won’t be solved in a couple of years.”

DI reporter Eric Clark contributed to this story.


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