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University of Iowa News Release


March 2, 2010

University of Iowa supports review of minimum bar entry age in Iowa City

The University of Iowa is voicing its support for a renewed effort by the Iowa City Council to raise the minimum bar entry age within city limits from 19 to 21 years of age.

On March 1, at a work session of the Iowa City Council, councilors began discussion on revising the city's minimum bar entry age ordinance. The discussion is the first step toward making any changes to the ordinance, which would require three public hearings prior to council vote.

"We strongly believe that reduced access to alcohol will support our efforts to keep students safe and healthy, which is our paramount concern as stewards of Iowa's future," said Tom Rocklin, interim vice president for student services. "While we are not opposed to safe and legal consumption of alcohol, it's our responsibility to do whatever we can to help curb dangerous drinking in our community."

Although Iowa state code mandates 21 years as the legal minimum age to purchase or possess alcoholic beverages -- a statute that is enforced in Iowa City --people younger than 21 are permitted to enter establishments that serve alcohol. Although they are not permitted to purchase or carry alcoholic beverages in these establishments, enforcement typically is a difficult task. As a result, the university continues to see an inordinate number of underage drinking incidents, as well as related health and safety consequences.

According to data compiled by the National College Health Association and the university's Office of Student Services, seven out of every 10 UI students indicate that they regularly engage in dangerous drinking -- more than twice the national average of college communities.

The result has been significantly higher-than-average incidents of public intoxication, nonconsensual sexual activity, physical injury to one's self or others, trouble with police and even contemplation of suicide.

The university already has begun exploring steps it might take to expand alternative social options. The new Campus Recreation and Wellness Center opening on campus later this year will offer late-night weekend hours, as well as programs specifically designed to draw and engage students during weekend nights. University administrators will be working with students to develop other late night activity options.

The university also remains actively involved in town and gown efforts to address the issue of alcohol safety. UI Provost Wallace Loh co-chairs the Partnership for Alcohol Safety with Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek. The group is composed of representatives from the business community, local school district, public health sector, media, faith community and UI student body, among others.

Despite these efforts, the problems of dangerous and underage drinking have persisted in the community.

"Over the last couple of years, both the university and the community have tried a variety of ways of managing the problem of illegal and unsafe drinking," said Rocklin. "Nothing short of changing the minimum bar entry age to be consistent with the state drinking age has had a substantial effect, so it's time to try the most obvious approach to limiting access by minors to alcohol."

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Rocklin, interim vice president for student services, 319-335-3557 or