Friday, September 14

21 Ordinance Dance Off

From the Daily Iowan

Thursday night's forum about the controversial 21-ordinance was as polarized as ever, with both camps firmly sticking to their positions and agreeing on very little.

The forum, which took place at the IMU, was hosted by the Roosevelt Institution, a national nonprofit student-run organization.

In favor of 21-only: UI senior Phonsavanh Lovan and UI clinical Professor of family medicine Rick Dobyns argued the ordinance is for the greater good, citing the high rate of local binge drinking.

Against: UI junior Atul Nakhasi and Bo-James owner Leah Cohen said the ban would just push the problem elsewhere, specifically to harder-to-patrol house parties.

"Parents do not know what goes on at these house parties," Cohen said, adding that ultimately, we are "throwing these kids to the wolves."

Nakhasi used Iowa City police understaffing as an argument against the ban.

"If we can't take care of the sexual assaults on campus, how are we going to take care of the students going into residential, less-supervised areas," he asked.

On the other end of the spectrum, Dobyns argued for more nonalcoholic venues. He pointed out the 46-0 ratio between bars who serve alcohol and those who do not.

Dobyns said West Lafayette, Ind., the home of Purdue University, and Madison, Wis., the site of the University of Wisconsin, among others, have 21-ordinances, and they saw a decrease in binge drinking among students.

"The community needs to take the initiative to change the image and atmosphere of being a party school," Lovan said. "What's going to push [the UI] to have these nonalcoholic venues? We're going to keep waiting and waiting."

On Nov. 6, Iowa City voters will decide whether to allow people under 21 in the bars.

Both sides agreed that eliminating 18- and 19-year-olds from the bars could potentially create more danger for students venturing into the house-party world.

But each side had a different spin.

"Do I give my patients medicine that can produce negative effects? Yes," Dobyns said. "But they take the medicine for the longer and greater good."

Cohen took the opposite approach, saying the 21-ordinance would result in the "destruction of neighborhoods as well as more drug activity and assaults."

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