Wednesday, December 30, 2009

University of Iowa's Good News

December 30, 2009, 2:30 p.m.

"Bring Me Only Bad News"
(brought to you by FromDC2Iowa.blogspot.com*)

Sarge Shriver, one-time Director of the Peace Corps (among a great many other illustrious accomplishments), kept a sign on his office wall that read, "Bring me only bad news; good news weakens me." (It had earlier been the motto of GM's creative Charles Keating.)

It's a philosophy I normally share when writing about my beloved University of Iowa. I wouldn't want to weaken the institution with praise. "Those from whom you have most to learn are your critics," my father advised, "they are likely to be far more perceptive and usefully candid than sycophants." I figure so long as what I write is intended to be constructive and in no way mean spirited, expressions of concern and criticism and suggestions for improvement may be useful.

And I'm not about to change into a Dr. Feelgood, "Morning in America" Ronald Reagan, or a Power of Positive Thinking Norman Vincent Peale. [Photo credit: Google Images.]

But I don't think it would hurt to balance up the perspective, say, once a year.

There's one story I'd like to highlight, and then move on to a list of 58 more.

A "muckraker" (investigative reporter) from the turn of the (last) century, Lincoln Steffens, writes in his autobiography of a conflict with a local police chief. [Photo credit: Wikipedia.] Steffens' solution was to gradually write up and publish in the paper more and more of virtually every crime that occurred. Public outrage at the worsening "crime wave" produced the chief's capitulation. Steffens then proceeded to gradually reduce the thorough crime coverage to the point that the chief was honored by the community for his accomplishment in "stopping crime."

I tell this story because it occurred to me the other day that, following the seemingly constant flood of stories a year or so ago about Hawkeye football players in trouble with the law, I couldn't recall seeing any for the past few months. There were a number of possibilities as to why.

In some college towns there is an unwritten understanding between the football coach and police chief that the team's chances of winning games will not be impeded with arrests of players. Police officers simply turn their backs on player offenses; or hold the players, call the coach, and let him handle such situations -- keeping the players' names out of the papers. Or the players are arrested and booked, but the newspaper has an unwritten understanding that, for the same reasons, they will not report football players' crimes and arrests.

Of course, there's always the possibility that the football players, for whatever reason, are simply not committing as many crimes.

So it was with great relief that I read the Press-Citizen's report yesterday that the answer in the case of the Iowa Hawkeyes was the latter -- and that a good deal of the credit goes to the new "Director of Player Development," Chigozie Ejiasi. Ryan Suchomel, "Ejiasi, Hawks work on 'negative stuff;' Director of player development has key role for UI," Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 30, 2009, p. B1. This is a very significant accomplishment for any football team, a story well worth reading, and something that should be a matter of satisfaction and pride for the UI community generally. [Photo credit: Iowa City Press-Citizen.]

In that continuing spirit, what follows is nothing more than a reproduction of a sampling of some of the accomplishments and contributions by other members of the University of Iowa community. It's from a University of Iowa News Service Web site called "UI in the News, December 2009."

Note that this is (a) only one of a number of sources for such examples, (b) that none of those sources is a complete report (only what those gathering the items have heard about), (c) that this is not a representation for the year 2009, (d) it is only for about the first three weeks in December, (e) that it is what mainstream media thought was newsworthy -- not what UI administrators and professors necessarily thought were the UI's most significant research and academic contributions (e.g., see the display of the covers on the 40 books published by the College of Arts & Sciences faculty alone during the first 11 months of 2009). For example, the list includes news of a staged student snowball fight, donations and grants for medical research, student volunteers at a fire station, and a story about a Hawkeye football fan who has attended every bowl game the team has ever played -- none of which represent academic or research accomplishments.

But you will also find among these 58 items a wide representation of media, and far more serious news.

Naturally, many of the stories appear in Iowa media, such as Radio Iowa, the Des Moines Register, and Iowa City's local Gazette, Iowa City Press-Citizen, and campus paper, The Daily Iowan.

But papers from England, India and Trinidad are also represented, and national special focus publications, such as Science News and Science Daily, Forbes and Financial Express, Medical News Today and Vaccine News Daily, and Water Tech.

The more familiar national media that found items involving the University of Iowa newsworthy during this three week period included ABC News, National Public Radio, USA Today, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Kansas City Star, Omaha World Herald, and others from California, Kansas, Montana, Oregon, and Virginia.

The subject matter of the stories, annotated and linked, below, ran the gamut.

There were reports of medical research or comments on Army hospital expenditures, blood pressure control, cystic fibrosis, heart injuries, heart pounding, the Patient Voice Project (in which Writers' Workshop grads work with patients with mental illness), incidence of subsequent depression in premature babies, relationship of staring at screens and nearsightedness, rural medical care vacancies, vaccines. Public health issues included water contamination from consumer products' chemicals and the resurgence of PCBs.

Other science stories involved faculty and students at the Copenhagan climate talks, wind energy and a UI solar station for electric vehicles.

Economic news included a retrospective evaluation of whether the purchase of Alaska really was a good buy, UI's recognition as a "Center of Actuarial Excellence," some spinoff companies from UI research, the statewide impact of the UI budget, a UI professor's role in uncovering the scandal involving corporate executives' backdating of stock options, a study of risk perception and assessment regarding financial matters, UI's Iowa Electronic Market (a political "stock market"), the marketing success of Southwest Airlines' free bag check, an antitrust law professor's assessment of a paper mill acquisition and the proposed Comcast and NBC Universal merger, the factors affecting recovery from recession in college towns, and the variations in funeral expenses.

Stories involving the UI's international programs included the new "World Canvas" program, a three-fold increase in the number of study abroad countries and programs available to UI students, and the 25th anniversary of a couple UI-related international organizations (ICFRC and CIVIC).

A UI librarian discovered a rare book, and its Preservation Department succeeded in restoring some flood-damaged phonograph records for the Czech and Slovak Museum and Library.

Other subject included texting, the UI Vets Medwestern Writing Workshop, jail reality TV shows, how laid off, stay-at-home fathers are creating better marriages, an op ed column about paper making, and what influences prevalence of conspiracy theories.

As noted at the outset, this collection is a very small sample of what was going on at the University of Iowa even during this three week period, let alone for an entire year, or decade. Moreover, it only includes what mainstream media considered "news."

Nonetheless, these 58 stories at least illustrate that, while the University has its challenges, as all institutions do, (a) there is an enormous amount happening, and being contributed, by the University of Iowa, both to Iowans and to the world, and (b) that it covers a very wide swath indeed of the range of human endeavor.

Here are the stories, in reverse chronological order from a University of Iowa News Service Web site called "UI in the News, December 2009."

Students help replace violin lost in flood (Press-Citizen, Dec. 23)
UNIVERSITY OF IOWA music student Kate Truscello lost her violin during the 2008 flood but was able to get a new one with the help of her fellow students through an Artist Recovery Fund. "It was a big deal because a year ago I wasn't even sure I'd have an instrument to play it on," Truscello said. "What seemed like the worst possible thing that could happen turned out to be OK." The paper is based in Iowa City.
http://www.press-citizen.com/article/20091223/NEWS01/912230310/1079/

Dangers of texting while driving studied (Science News, Dec. 23)
Text messaging while driving leads to slowed reaction time, unplanned lane changes and more collisions, according to a new study published online Dec. 21 in Human Factors. In a related study done at the University of Iowa, LINDA BOYLE and her colleagues surveyed teens and found that eating, putting on makeup, talking to passengers and texting were high on the list of distractions. In a 2008 study, the Iowa team reviewed traffic crash data involving drivers age 16 to 19 and found that injuries - especially for passengers - were more severe when the driver's cell phone use was listed on the police report. Boyle is now at the University of Washington in Seattle.
http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/51423/title/Texting_and_driving_dont_mix,_just_as_suspected_

Boy raises money for UI Children's Hospital (Radio Iowa, Dec. 22)
A six-year-old Iowa City boy played Santa Claus this month by raising more than $2,000 for the UNIVERSITY OF IOWA CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL. Keian Secrist created flyers and walked door to door in his neighborhood to raise all the money. He used that money to buy 12 Nintendo DS video game systems and games for the hospital.
http://www.radioiowa.com/2009/12/22/boy-raises-money-to-buy-toys-for-hospital/

Bloom's book tells the adventure behind pearls (The Gazette, Dec. 22)
In his latest non-fiction outing "Tears of Mermaids: The Secret Story of Pearls," University of Iowa Professor STEPHEN BLOOM traveled the world to trace the story of a pearl. Bloom set out to interview every person who touches the gem from the time the oyster is scooped from the ocean floor to the moment it's fastened around a woman's neck. The paper is based in Cedar Rapids.
http://gazetteonline.com/local-news/2009/12/21/ui-professor-shares-the-adventures-behind-pearls

Other Recent News Highlights

Harty comments on vaccine research (Vaccine News Daily, Dec. 22)
A five-year, $18.8 million federally funded set of projects is seeking to make new inroads toward vaccines against several of the world's deadliest diseases. The study focuses on identifying epitopes -- pieces of a virus or microbe that cause the body's immune system to launch an attack. "A recent NIH workshop identified the lack of epitope information as a key 'missing link' in the search for effective malaria vaccines," said JOHN T. HARTY, a professor in microbial immunology at the University of Iowa, who studies basic immunology that can inform vaccine design.
http://vaccinenewsdaily.com/news/211364-nih-awards-institute-188-million-for-major-infectious-disease-study

Chen makes cystic fibrosis discovery (Medical News Today, Dec. 22)
UI researchers have made an important discovery about the secret life of the defective protein that causes cystic fibrosis. The study, which is published as "paper of the week" in the Dec. 18 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, is the work of lead author Dr. JENG-HAUR CHEN, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/174642.php

Schnoor attended Copenhagen climate talks (Des Moines Register, Dec. 22)
JERALD SCHNOOR, an engineering professor at the University of Iowa who closely follows the climate debate, attended the Copenhagen sessions with a dozen students from Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, Wartburg College and Drake University. Schnoor said the policy gridlock there calls into question whether 193 nations will ever forge an agreement under U.N. machinery. He said it might be time to focus on the 30 countries that combined account for 90 percent of the emissions.
http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20091222/NEWS/912220355/Little-Iowa-impact-in-climate-talks

UI research being commercialized (Press-Citizen, Dec. 21)
There are a number of inventions and breakthroughs coming out of University of Iowa research efforts. Some UI research is becoming commercialized through spinoff companies. KARIM ABDEL-MALEK's Virtual Soldier research led to a start-up called Santos Human Inc., which is based in the Engineering Research Facility. "Even as we start to talk about it, we become more impressed with what is happening. There is just so much happening," said Jordan Cohen, UI interim vice president for research. "Iowans would be proud to know what is going on." The newspaper is based in Iowa City.
http://www.press-citizen.com/article/20091221/NEWS01/912210318/1079/

Whiteman study looked at UI's economic impact (Lawrence Journal World, Dec. 21)
As Kansas University begins to parcel out another round of state budget reductions, the effect will continue to be felt in the Lawrence community. CHARLES H. WHITEMAN, an economist at the University of Iowa, prepared reports in 1994 and 2000 that examined the economic impact of state spending on the UI, which could be compared to KU. Whiteman found that generally, the economic impact of his university was twice its budget. So if a university like Iowa or KU had a budget of $1 billion, the total economic activity generated by the school would be $2 billion. The newspaper is located in Kansas.
http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2009/dec/21/ku-cuts-have-ripple-effect/

Flood-damaged records are returned to museum (The Gazette, Dec. 18)
To save flood-damaged phonograph records from the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, University of Iowa preservationists had to keep them wet during months of repair. The technique worked, and UI preservationists on Friday presented about 1,500 restored records to David Muhlena, library director of the Czech Museum in Cedar Rapids. Those are the 33 rpm and 45 rpm records UI specialists have repaired in the months since the June 2008 flood. About 3,500 records from the Czech Museum collection remain to be restored. "I was astounded at how many we saved," said NANCY KRAFT, head of the UI Libraries Preservation Department. "I think the majority of this collection will be returned." The paper is based in Cedar Rapids. An ASSOCIATED PRESS version of the article also appeared in several media outlets.
http://gazetteonline.com/local-news/flood-recovery/2009/12/18/return-from-ruin-flood-damaged-records-restored-for-c-r-museum

UI pursues solar station for electric vehicles (The Gazette, Dec. 18)
University of Iowa staff could soon be driving electric trucks charged on solar power, and some of them might even jump-start the power grid in a blackout. It all hinges on a solar charging station. The Iowa Office of Energy Independence announced a round of grants funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The office awarded the charging station project a $250,000 technology demonstration grant earlier this month. "We saw this as exactly the kind of project that the act was designed for," said ERIC FORESMAN, an energy engineer in the UI's Facilities Department. The Gazette is based in Cedar Rapids.
http://gazetteonline.com/local-news/education/2009/12/17/ui-pursues-solar-station-for-electric-vehicles

UI is recognized for actuarial excellence (Des Moines Register, Dec. 18)
The UNIVERSITY OF IOWA is one of the inaugural 12 universities in North America to be recognized as Centers of Actuarial Excellence.
http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20091218/BUSINESS/912180343/-1/GETPUBLISHED03scripts/Actuarial-programs-at-Drake-U-of-I-honored-for-excellence

UI Health Care has 'turned the corner' (Chicago Tribune/AP, Dec. 18)
University of Iowa Health Care has "turned the corner" after months of financial woes. Vice President for Medical Affairs JEAN ROBILLARD says shrinking the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics work force by 676 people over the past year and cutting expenses has placed the hospital in position to handle the current financial climate.
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-ap-ia-iowaheathcare,0,5700649.story

Alumnus offers artist survival strategies (Laguna Beach Independent, Dec. 17)
Art writer Peter Clothier, who has a doctorate from the UNIVERSITY OF IOWA, has written a new book, "Persist: In Praise of the Creative Spirit in a World Gone Mad with Commerce," a collection of essays that tackle the predicament of artists who encounter cultural climate in which "celebrity and established commercial success are more often rewarded than is real talent."
http://www.lagunabeachindependent.com/news/2009-12-17/Arts_(and)_Entertainment/Writer_Offers_Artists_Survival_Strategies.html

UI research helped expose backdating scandal (L.A. Times, Dec. 17)
The stunning dismissals of criminal cases against three former Broadcom Corp. executives in the last week illustrate the struggles the U.S. attorney's office has encountered in prosecuting corporate executives for backdating stock options, a practice that makes it appear that their companies had fewer expenses and greater income than they really had. ERIK LIE, a University of Iowa business professor whose research helped expose the backdating scandal, has calculated that 13.6 percent of all option grants to top executives from 1996 through 2005 were backdated or otherwise manipulated.
http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-broadcom17-2009dec17,0,4674840.story

Study links prematurity to depression, attention disorders (ABC News, Dec. 16)
Children who were born prematurely and at a very low weight may have an increased risk of certain behavior problems and symptoms of depression and anxiety, research suggests. In the new study, published in the Journal Pediatrics, researchers found that among 104 7- to 16-year-olds they assessed, the 49 who were born very prematurely had higher rates of hyperactivity and attention problems, as well as symptoms of depression and anxiety. The lead researcher on the study was AMY L. CONRAD of the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City.
http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory?id=9353191

UI writing workshop helps veterans express feelings (Radio Iowa, Dec. 15)
People in the military are trained to follow orders, not to express their feelings, but a free writing workshop next month will give veterans the chance to drop their armor and open up about what's on their minds. The UNIVERSITY OF IOWA Vets Midwestern Writing Workshop will be held Jan. 15-17 at the UI's Distance Learning Site in downtown Iowa City.
http://www.radioiowa.com/2009/12/15/writing-workshop-helps-veterans-express-feelings/

New UI program 'WorldCanvass' looks at the world (Press-Citizen, Dec. 15)
JOAN KJAER, a longtime staple of Iowa Public Radio, left IPR, signaling the end of her program, "Know the Score." But now, Kjaer hosts a new University of Iowa broadcast called "WorldCanvass," which scans the globe for international themes, including human rights, arts and culture.
http://www.press-citizen.com/article/20091215/NEWS01/912150327/1079/news01/Radio-program-looks-at-world

Goins comments on nearsightedness (National Public Radio, Dec. 15)
Video games, PDAs and television shows that get some of the blame for the obesity epidemic may be hurting your eyes, too. Myopia -- or nearsightedness -- has skyrocketed since the 1970s says a study in the latest Archives of Ophthalmology, and part of the reason could be our modern behavior. Dr. KENNETH GOINS, a professor of ophthalmology at the University says environmental factors, like what we spend our days looking at, can change our eyes. "I'm sitting at my desk right now in front of my computer and maybe this sedentary near-work is not good for us," Goins says. "But you know, I'm a professor and I have to sit down, I have to write papers, I have to do these things. They're part of my day and it's the same for my children." The article appeared on NPR's health blog.
http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2009/12/walk_away_from_the_screen_your.html

Students volunteer as first responders (Daily Iowan, Dec. 14)
Approximately 15 Kirkwood and University of Iowa students dedicate anywhere from 24 to roughly 100 hours a month to their jobs as volunteer firefighters at the Coralville Fire Department. They do it for job experience, and they do it to save lives. "The thing about the volunteer aspect is that people do it for a reason," said CHRIS COUCH, a fifth-year volunteer firefighter. "It's not a paycheck." The UI student newspaper is located in Iowa City.
http://www.dailyiowan.com/2009/12/14/Metro/14883.html

UI works to fill rural doctor vacancies (Omaha World-Herald, Dec. 14)
The University of Iowa College of Medicine has worked with rural communities for years to fill vacancies in medical care positions, said ROGER TRACY, director of the university's Office of Statewide Clinical Education Programs. Tracy, an assistant dean in the UI College of Medicine, said this year he found there were 119 family practice physician vacancies across the state, most in towns of 10,000 or fewer residents. The paper is located in Nebraska.
http://www.omaha.com/article/20091214/LIVING01/712139935

Perlmutter comments on jail reality shows (Chicago Current, Dec. 14)
A new MSNBC documentary series called "The Squeeze" follows members of the Cook County Sheriff's Department's Criminal Intelligence Unit, which culls sources inside the jail to help fight crime. A Discovery Channel show, "Cook County Jail," also debuted earlier this month. "You're not going to see one hour of police filling out forms," says DAVID PERLMUTTER, director of the University of Iowa's journalism school and author of "Policing the Media: Street Cops and Public Perceptions of Law Enforcement."
http://www.chicagocurrent.com/articles/30872-Two-Reality-Shows-Lift-Veil-on-Cook-County-Jail

More UI students are studying abroad (Press Citizen, Dec. 14)
Study abroad has been an option typically used in the college student's junior year, but sensing increased demand, UI officials have been expanding the opportunities for students. Last year, 899 students participated in 80 study abroad programs in 60 countries, which is triple what was offered 10 years ago, said JANIS PERKINS, director of the UI Office of Study Abroad, which is part of the International Programs office. The paper is located in Iowa City.
http://www.press-citizen.com/article/20091214/NEWS01/912140323/1079/news01/More-becoming-students-of-the-world

UI study about risk noted (Financial Express, Dec. 14)
In this article about the economic impact of disasters, a study by THOMAS RIETZ of the University of Iowa is noted. Rietz pointed out that equity owners, even while acting averse to risk, demand high rates of return in anticipation of an unlikely, but severe, crash. The publication is based in India.
http://www.financialexpress.com/news/Costing-catastrophe/553643/

College of Education emphasizes teaching experience (Press Citizen, Dec. 13)
The University of Iowa College of Education trains future teachers with an eye toward practical, hands-on experience. "We are not a high theory, low practice department," education professor PETER HLEBOWITSH said. "We have ample clinical experiences for our students."
http://www.press-citizen.com/article/20091212/NEWS01/91212002/1079/Teaching-the-future-teachers

Hawk fan follows teams to every bowl (Des Moines Register, Dec. 13)
Ike Ackerman of Waverly has attended every bowl game ever played by the UNIVERSITY OF IOWA. It began with the 1957 Rose Bowl and, unless there's a drastic change in Ackerman's plans, the string will continue on Jan. 5, when Iowa plays Georgia Tech at the 2010 Orange Bowl. That will be 24 Iowa Hawkeye bowl games for Ackerman, who graduated from the UI in 1961, and received his law degree there in 1963.
http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20091213/NEWS03/912130334/1166/OPINION01/Carlson-Super-Hawk-fan-follows-teams-to-bowls

Rego says airline marketing ploy is smart (USA Today, Dec. 13)
Southwest is the only U.S. airline that lets passengers check two pieces of luggage for free. And as it heads into the Christmas travel season, Southwest is continuing its "bags fly free" ad campaign, which it says has shown results. Marketing analysts say it's smart for Southwest to stand apart from the pack and refrain from wringing yet another fee out of recession-weary fliers. "I think it's a smart marketing ploy, particularly given the economic circumstances most Americans are experiencing these days," says LOPO REGO, a University of Iowa marketing professor.
http://www.usatoday.com/travel/flights/2009-12-13-southwest-checked-bags_N.htm

Hovenkamp comments on paper mill acquisition (Gazette-Times, Dec. 12)
After International Paper Co. announced that it will close an Oregon mill that made containerboard for cardboard boxes, some raised antitrust issues, claiming that the buy-out of a competitor and then the closing of plants was an attempt to try to force up containerboard prices. International had bought the mill from Weyerhaeuser in 2008. HERBERT HOVENKAMP, a professor at the University of Iowa Law School and an expert on antitrust issues, said it's unlikely International Paper controls enough of the containerboard market to manipulate it all by itself. "It could be a competitive problem if the acquisition of Weyerhaeuser and the shutdown was an attempt to reduce marketwide output," Hovenkamp said. "(But) a unilateral shutdown by a firm with less than 30 percent of the market would not ordinarily send out anticompetitive signals." The paper is based in Corvallis, Ore.
http://www.gazettetimes.com/news/local/article_1ee3e620-e7b1-11de-aea0-001cc4c002e0.html

Patchett attended Writers' Workshop (Washington Post, Dec. 12)
In this article about best-selling author Ann Patchett, it's noted that she attended the IOWA WRITERS' WORKSHOP at the University of Iowa.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/10/AR2009121003657.html

UI writing program helps those with illness (Chicago Tribune, Dec. 12)
The PATIENT VOICE PROJECT, a University of Iowa Arts Share program, pairs people who have chronic or mental illness with Iowa Writers' Workshop graduate students for at least six weeks of free writing classes. Launched in 2004 by a workshop student, it has helped more than 100 people. "This writing class helped me come to terms with the fact that my disease is progressing. I don't know that I would have just admitted that otherwise," said Molly Baker, who has cystic fibrosis. "It helped me get that out, and that was important." The article originally appeared in the Gazette, based in Cedar Rapids.
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-ap-ia-exchange-patientv,0,1131592.story

Bern-Klug comments on funeral expenses (Kansas City Star, Dec. 12)
Funeral home prices vary by thousands of dollars for the same or similar services, according to the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Greater Kansas City, but because of stress, emotion, urgency or shame, many consumers simply don't ask about prices. "Because most people never look at general price lists, they have no idea how much variation there is in costs," said University of Iowa professor MERCEDES BERN-KLUG. "There is a lot of variation between funeral homes and a lot of variation within funeral homes."
http://www.kansascity.com/115/story/1627489.html

UI student attends climate change summit (Quad City Times, Dec. 11)
World leaders who have been meeting in Copenhagen during the international climate change conference will be joined by an Iowa delegation that includes AMY OBERBROECKLING, a University of Iowa junior from Davenport. She will travel with a 30-member group from the Iowa United Nations Association that includes teachers and students from five Iowa colleges and universities, plus Rice University, which is in Houston. While in Copenhagen through Dec. 19, she will gather information on sustainable agriculture, an area of personal interest, and blog about her experiences for the Quad-City Times. The paper is based in Davenport.
http://www.qctimes.com/news/local/article_0dc9dc4c-e6d4-11de-ac70-001cc4c002e0.html

UI's WorldCanvass program focuses on Africa (Daily Iowan, Dec. 11)
Iowa City will get a taste of the African arts and culture in the second installment of WorldCanvass, a new program created by the UNIVERSITY OF IOWA INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMS, focusing on a specific topic of cultural interest each month.
http://www.dailyiowan.com/2009/12/11/Arts/14845.html

UI project helps ill tap into creative strength (Gazette, Dec. 10)
The UNIVERSITY OF IOWA Patient Voice Project helps patients like Molly Baker tap into their creative strength. The project is part of the UI Arts Share program and pairs people with chronic or mental illness with Iowa Writers' Workshop graduate students for at least six weeks of free writing classes. The Gazette is published in Cedar Rapids.
http://gazetteonline.com/breaking-news/2009/12/10/ui's-patient-voice-project-helps-ill-tap-into-creative-strength

Students stage snowball fight (Daily Iowan, Dec. 10)
UNIVERSITY OF IOWA students staged a snowball fight on the UI Pentacrest Wednesday night. UI Snowball Fest '09, an event launched on Facebook, fell on the first snow day at the UI since Feb. 6, 2008. The friendly fight began with groupings of people but evolved into two thick lines consisting of around 1,000 individuals.
http://www.dailyiowan.com/2009/12/10/Metro/14828.html

Barrett discovers rare book (Press-Citizen, Dec. 9)
While searching for samples of 15th Century European paper in the UI Main Library, TIMOTHY BARRETT, a research scientist and adjunct professor of papermaking at the UI Center for the Book, found a rare book, "Travels in North America," containing translated letters from the French Jesuit priest Father Pierre Francois Xavier de Charlevoix. The newspaper is based in Iowa City.
http://www.press-citizen.com/article/20091209/NEWS01/912090309/1079/news01/UI-prof-makes-rare-discovery

UI student gets first winter weather experience (Associated Press, Dec. 9)
The recent winter weather brought a film-like feeling for Sharmishtha Jindal, an 18-year-old UNIVERSITY OF IOWA freshman from Bhopal, India. "I saw this in the movies and on television, but this is the first experience," Jindal said. "It's very different in the real world."
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g-WqKbY64oAqC7RR_lsu1h9nMHFwD9CFC6V81

North Hall's past revealed (Daily Iowan, Dec. 9)
During renovation of Wild Bill's Coffee Shop in UI's North Hall, workers are uncovering things that reveal the building's past as a school, such as children's drawings, signs and other education aids. For 60 years that elementary, junior-high, and high school students used the building, the UI COLLEGE OF EDUCATION used the facility to train teachers and administrators. The university closed the school in 1972 because of reduced funding. The paper is based in Iowa City.
http://www.dailyiowan.com/2009/12/09/Metro/14790.html

Team advances heart-related research (United Press International, Dec. 8)
Scientists are using a new model of heart cells to show how activation of an enzyme disrupts the electrical activity of heart cells. Researchers from the University of Iowa and Columbia University say they've demonstrated the enzyme, calmodulin kinase II, is a critical regulator of the heart's response to injury. "By targeting this enzyme's activity, it may be possible to prevent or treat heart disease and associated electrical rhythm disturbances," said University of Iowa researcher THOMAS HUND, the study's senior author.
http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2009/12/08/Enzyme-advances-heart-related-research/UPI-70161260296227/

Whiteman discusses Iowa's economic recovery (ABC News, Dec. 8)
Iowa has begun a slow recovery from the recession, but economists, including the University of Iowa's CHARLES WHITEMAN, told Gov. Chet Culver on Monday that the state's economy remains shaky. Similar stories also appeared on the Web sites of the SIOUX CITY JOURNAL, RADIO IOWA and WCCO TV (Minneapolis).
http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory?id=9277815

Barker questions value of Alaska (Marketplace, Dec. 7)
University of Iowa finance professor DAVID BARKER questions whether U.S. taxpayers got their money's worth from buying Alaska. Marketplace is heard on NPR stations.
http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2009/12/07/am-alaska/

Whelan comments on families, recession (Staunton NewsLeader, Dec. 7)
University of Iowa sociology professor CHRISTINE WHELAN suggests that increased unemployment among men might actually benefit marriage because it might lead more men to take a greater role in child care and housework. The NewsLeader is published in Virginia.
http://www.newsleader.com/article/20091207/NEWS01/91207002/1002/news01/New++State+of+Our+Unions++report+focuses+on+money+and+marriage+during++Great+Recession++

Barrett writes about papermaking and books (Des Moines Register, Dec. 6)
An op-ed from the UNIVERSITY OF IOWA's MacArthur Grant recipient Timothy Barrett explains what papermaking says about us.
http://www.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2009912060313

UI team fears PCBs are still cause for concern (Des Moines Register, Dec. 6)
PCBs, the toxic chemicals banned in the 1970s, are back. Actually, PCBs never went away, and researchers at the University of Iowa, led by professor of engineering KERI HORNBUCKLE, are trying to figure out how big of a problem that is and what can be done about it.
http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20091206/BUSINESS/912060321/-1/COMM07/Elbert-U-of-I-team-fears-PCBs-may-remain-cause-for-concern

Osterberg discusses start of Iowa wind energy policy (Billings Gazette, Dec. 6)
University of Iowa professor DAVID OSTERBERG was a state legislator in 1983, when he introduced the first bill to adopt renewable energy standards. Osterberg also discusses the potential of Wyoming's wind energy industry.
http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/wyoming/article_467c1e70-e223-11de-a58c-001cc4c002e0.html

Leicht comments on conspiracy theories (The Guardian, Dec. 6)
A story about former vice presidential candidate, and potential future presidential candidate, Sarah Palin quotes University of Iowa sociology professor KEVIN LEICHT on why conspiracy theories take hold in difficult economic times. The Guardian is published in the UK.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/dec/06/sarah-palin-president-book-tour

Whiteman notes impact of university budget cuts on cities (Radio Iowa, Dec. 5)
CHUCK WHITEMAN, director of the University of Iowa Institute for Economic Research, expects university and college towns will bounce back quickly from the recession.
http://www.radioiowa.com/2009/12/05/cuts-at-state-universities-impacting-cities/

Couple gives gift to UI for clubfoot treatment (Chicago Tribune, Dec. 5)
A Minnesota couple has given $1 million to an association that trains doctors and nurses to treat clubfoot with a method developed by the late University of Iowa surgeon IGNACIO PONSETI.
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-ap-ia-ponsetidonation,0,4141635.story

Hovenkamp comments on anti-trust investigation (Forbes, Dec. 4)
The proposed union of Comcast and NBC Universal could go through as much as 18 months of regulatory scrutiny, and Congress has already vowed to hold antitrust hearings on the issue soon. "The concern is that Comcast would somehow favor NBC programming," says HERBERT HOVENKAMP, an antitrust expert at the University of Iowa College of Law.
http://www.forbes.com/2009/12/03/comcast-nbc-ge-business-washington-antitrust.html

UI study influenced texting ban (Trinidad Times Independent, Dec. 4)
A statewide ban on texting while driving has gone into effect in Colorado. The legislation was influenced by research at the UNIVERSITY OF IOWA PUBLIC POLICY CENTER.
http://www.trinidad-times.com/main.asp?SectionID=14&SubSectionID=151&ArticleID=2423

Leslie comments on $2.25 million grant (Press-Citizen, Dec. 4)
The University of Iowa's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology received a $2.25 million, five-year grant from National Institutes of Health to support junior faculty researchers in the field of women's reproductive health. The grant establishes the Iowa Women's Reproductive Health Research Career Development Center, which is one of 16 in the country. "It's a significant amount of money that will support faculty salaries and research endeavors that will support some the best young faculty in the country," said KIMBERLY LESLIE, a UI professor, head of obstetrics and gynecology and principal investigator on the grant. The paper is based in Iowa City.
http://www.press-citizen.com/article/20091204/NEWS01/912040318/1079/news01/UI-gets-2.25M-health-grant

Balakrishnan studies hospital spending (News Blaze, Dec. 3)
An award-winning study of spending patterns at U.S. Army hospitals by a University of Iowa accounting professor confirms suspicions that managers spend down their budgets at the end of the fiscal year to avoid a surplus, but also finds that the spending is not wasteful. The study, co-authored by RAMJI BALAKRISHNAN, accounting professor in the Tippie College of Business, looked at spending patterns at 31 Army hospitals from 1998 to 2002, including Walter Reed Army Hospital.
http://newsblaze.com/story/2009120313350600004.wi/topstory.html

IEM opens 2010 congressional market (News Blaze, Dec. 3)
The Iowa Electronic Markets has opened a Congressional control prediction market, giving traders the opportunity to predict the party alignment of Congress after next year's mid-term elections. The Iowa Electronic Markets is a real-money political futures prediction market operated by the UNIVERSITY OF IOWA'S TIPPIE COLLEGE OF BUSINESS.
http://newsblaze.com/story/2009120312151100008.wi/topstory.html

Carter's hypertension study gets national attention (Radio Iowa, Dec. 3)
A University of Iowa medical researcher's study of hypertension is getting national attention. BARRY CARTER studied patients with high blood pressure at clinics in six Iowa communities. Doctors and pharmacists worked closely together to modify medication for half of the patients. Carter found that the collaborative effort was twice as likely to achieve control of high blood pressure.
http://www.radioiowa.com/2009/12/03/u-i-study-on-blood-pressure-getting-attention/

UI studies drinking water contamination (WaterTech, Dec. 2)
Wastewater contamination from organic chemicals in consumer products such as soaps, antimicrobial compounds and insect repellents is polluting drinking water sources in the state. A recent study by UNIVERSITY OF IOWA scientists found low concentrations of two synthetic fragrance compounds known as AHTN and HHCB in both the Iowa River and in the University of Iowa's drinking water.
http://www.watertechonline.com/news.asp?N_ID=73037

UI study finds second pathway to feeling heartbeat (Science Daily, Dec. 2)
A new study suggests that the inner sense of our cardiovascular state, our "interoceptive awareness" of the heart pounding, relies on two independent pathways, contrary to what had been asserted by prominent researchers. The UNIVERSITY OF IOWA study was published online this week in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091102172041.htm

Faculty, students to attend climate change convention (Press-Citizen, Dec. 1)
Ten UNIVERSITY OF IOWA faculty and students will join an Iowa United Nations Association delegation of 30 people from six U.S. universities and colleges. They will attend the 15th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change from Dec. 13-19 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The Press-Citizen is in Iowa City.
http://www.press-citizen.com/article/20091201/NEWS01/912010301/1079/UI-delegation-to-attend-climate-change-convention

Councils embrace foreign issues (Press Citizen, Nov. 30)
The Iowa City Foreign Relations Council and the Council for International Visitors to Iowa Cities celebrated their 25th anniversaries this year, marking a quarter century of bringing global issues to Iowa City and giving local citizens a voice in international affairs. ICFRC is a community organization affiliated with International Programs at the UNIVERSITY OF IOWA. The Press-Citizen is in Iowa City.
http://www.press-citizen.com/article/20091130/NEWS01/911300315/1079/NEWS01/Embracing-global-issues-for-25-years
A guest opinion on the ICRFC is at
http://www.press-citizen.com/article/20091130/OPINION03/911300303/1018/OPINION/Our-View-Helping-to-keep-us-abreast-of-global-issues

_______________
* Why do I put this blog ID at the top of the entry, when you know full well what blog you're reading? Because there are a number of Internet sites that, for whatever reason, simply take the blog entries of others and reproduce them as their own without crediting the source. I don't mind the flattering attention, but would appreciate acknowledgment as the source, even if I have to embed it myself. -- Nicholas Johnson

Monday, December 28, 2009

UI's Alcohol Abuse: Look to Nebraska

December 28, 2009, 6:00 a.m.

In the 12 years that I spent on the council, I tried several times to get the council to pass a 21 ordinance. University of Iowa presidents Mary Sue Coleman and David Skorton also encouraged the council to pass such an ordinance -- along with the UI College of Public Health, the public school system and numerous others within the community. In fact, every piece of credible evidence presented to the council called for a 21 ordinance -- all of which the council ignored, choosing instead to listen to the bar owners and patrons of the bars.

-- Former Iowa City Mayor, Ernie Lehman, "Council's Moral Character Problem," Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 26, 2009, p. A11

"What Works" to Reduce Students' Alcohol Abuse
(brought to you by FromDC2Iowa.blogspot.com*)

And see, "UI's Alcohol Problem: Many Solutions, Little Will," December 16, 2009, with links to 30 related, prior blog entries.

There's good news and bad news about the University of Iowa's serious alcohol problems.

The good news is that UI isn't the only American university with this problem. The bad news is that the UI isn't the only American university with this problem. The devastation of young peoples' lives from alcohol abuse starts in the high schools and spreads across the nation's campuses.

Fortunately, there's even better news. There are solutions.

Last week, Penn State students' alcohol abuse -- and the solutions being used on other campuses -- became the subject of an hour-long NPR radio program of great relevance to Iowans.

"This American Life," with host Ira Glass, is a weekly radio program from Chicago's WBEZ-FM carried nationwide by some 500 NPR stations each week. This award-winning program will soon have been on the air continuously for 15 years. Acknowledging that the program is hard to describe, its Web site makes this effort: "There's a theme to each episode, and a variety of stories on that theme. It's mostly true stories of everyday people, though not always."

Last week's program certainly involved the "true stories of everyday people" and had as its "theme" the scourge of alcohol abuse by college students -- with a focus on those at Penn State, the nation's "number one party school." "#1 Party School," "This American Life,"No. 396, December 18, 2009.

You can listen to the entire program from that linked site. And if this is an issue for which you have actual responsibility you probably should. However, Ira divides the show into "Acts," and for my purposes at the moment I'm going to concentrate on "Act Four" (the last 19 minutes). (If you'd like to limit your listening to that "Act," and your player enables you to see how many minutes into it you are, slide it to minute 46 and start there. Unfortunately, the show does not make transcripts available; although I wish it would do so at least occasionally, and this would have been one of those occasions. What follows is based on my relatively thorough notes from Act Four.)

Act Four focuses on what we can do about it -- here in Iowa City, as well as on other campuses.

Perspectives on Penn State's Problems.

First, some of the facts from Penn State -- most of which are reflected at the UI as well.

Every year 1700 college students die of alcohol related injuries. And the problem seems to be increasing. What used to be five drinks a night at Penn State has become 8, 9 and 10. Students admitted to the Penn State hospital for alcohol poisoning, or other alcohol abuse-related conditions, have been coming in with steadily rising levels of blood alcohol -- now some three times the legal limit. The show notes that normal drinkers could never reach those levels; they would either throw up or fall asleep first.

Like Iowa, Penn State has spent millions attacking the problem. Administrators have tried to teach students about safer drinking, created alcohol-free halls and dorms, task forces and town-gown commissions, alcohol-free late night activities (including stand-up comics and movies) -- but "obviously, this hasn't gotten the job done."

Linda LaSalle, Penn State's coordinator of health education services, has tried teaching students about blood alcohol levels and alcohol poisoning, offers a mandatory online alcohol education program for incoming freshmen ("Alcohol Edu"), and a social norms media campaign that makes the point that most students drink less than incoming first years think they do.

The result? Great knowledge gains (after all, they've been admitted to the university on the basis of their ability to retain and repeat what teachers say) -- but no significant behavior changes. LaSalle says they still drink as much or more than they ever did, and acknowledges that there are many things that contribute to this problem that are out of her control.

As Bob Saltz of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation puts it, universities are not well suited to resolving these problems; academics tend to think they can simply teach kids to drink less; as Penn State's (and Iowa's) experience shows, they can't. Moreover, while Penn State and other schools may have lots of programs, they often fail to evaluate what they're doing, and therefore don't know what works and what doesn't.

Dead drunk. Universities do tend to launch a range of campus responses following alcohol-related student deaths -- and the adverse publicity they bring the school.

But it turns out that even alcohol-related deaths seem to have little impact on students' actual alcohol consumption. This past September a Penn State student died from a fall while climbing a wall at 3:30 a.m., drunk after a frat party. There were similar deaths in 1993, 1987, 1984, 1983.

So what is the student reaction? When a girl fell to her death from sixth story window in 1997 the newspaper expressed it: the death, it said, "may prompt party goers to keep a closer eye on each others' safety." This year students said of the most recent death, not that the dead student shouldn't have consumed so much alcohol, but that "he would be alive today if only he didn't drink alone."

Sadly, this appears to be the primary message of the otherwise very informative, powerful and emotionally moving quality documentary, "Haze," which I watched only after uploading this blog entry. Indeed, the final screen says, simply, "Save a life. Make the call" -- meaning, when your fraternity brothers pass out and are at risk of dying from alcohol poisoning, don't ignore how serious this can be, take some responsibility for them, a major part of which is a call to 911.

In fairness, "make the call" is certainly good advice. Moreover, it's an understandable focus for the film, given that the Gordie Foundation had its genesis in the aftermath of a student's death from alcohol. And as the This American Life program makes clear, to have devoted the film to solutions, rather than the problem and its consequences, would have been a different documentary. Nonetheless, it is a long way from a presentation of solutions, let alone those of UNL and Lincoln, described below.

However, that, and the seemingly constant interruptions from very loud commercials, are the only downside to this otherwise excellent documentary.

It's available near the bottom of this blog entry, and from the Web site of the Gordie Foundation, named for Gordon Bailey, who died from excessive alcohol in a University of Colorado fraternity in 2004. The award-winning documentary was produced by the Colorado Springs film company, Watt Imagination! and directed by Pete Schuermann.

Of course the 1700 college student deaths that are alcohol related are tragic for everyone involved, as this film so dramatically shows. (The knowledgeable John Neff challenges this figure as too high in a comment on this blog entry. My response: (1) it is certainly a widely accepted number, (2) whatever the actual numbers may be, even one death is too many. As Penn State's Linda LaSalle says, no college student should ever die because they had too much to drink, and (3) my instinct is that there is a greater likelihood of under reporting of alcohol-related deaths than over reporting, for example, a student who falls to her death while drunk may be recorded as having died from "an accident" rather than from an "alcohol-related accident." Ditto for injuries from a fight, a reported rape, or an unwanted pregnancy; those reporting, or otherwise discussing such occurances, may not know, or not mention if they do, that alcohol was very much involved.)

But as tragic as college students' needless deaths may be, regardless of their number, they are but a very small percentage of the total number of college students who suffer the unwanted consequences of their own, or others', excessive drinking in the form of alcohol-related accidents, fights, unwanted sex and pregnancy, failing or dropping out of college, alcohol addiction, drunk drivers, crimes of various kinds (alcohol is involved in roughly half of all crimes, give or take), alcohol poisoning (from which they recover rather than die), or other undesirable medical consequences.

And that is where this film shines. It sets out to make the case that college students' excessive alcohol consumption is a serious problem, and it does so with a power I've never before seen in a mere 81 minutes of film and scenes of which most parents are presumably unaware.

You can watch it from this blog, if you wish. It's available near the bottom of this blog entry. Regardless of your attitude about college drinking, I challenge you to watch it and still come away saying the equivalent of, "What's the problem? Boys will be boys. Let the kids have their fun."

Who is most involved in binge drinking? First year entering students who are white and male; the emergency room admissions in September are much higher than for the rest of the year.

A further complexity is that while the heaviest drinkers are naturally at the highest risk of getting hurt, there really aren't that many of them. It is the moderate drinkers, who vastly outnumber them, who are also victims from a rare over consumption by themselves or others -- incidents for which it is very hard to predict who will be involved and when they will occur.

The Solutions

Bob Saltz, from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, says the answer is sort of a no-brainer: "You reduce risk by limiting kids' access to alcohol; the less alcohol is available the less kids drink; the less they drink the fewer bad things happen." (The Institute is a public health research organization that includes the causes and consequences of college students' alcohol abuse in its definition of "public health.")

Well, great. But how do you limit "kids' access to alcohol"?

In practice what this means is a police crackdown and, just as important, the students' perception of one. Until recently there wasn't much research to back up Saltz' hunch. Now there is.

Saltz' has completed an NIH-funded study at 14 California campuses.

Half the campuses instituted police "party patrols" that broke up large off-campus parties, stepped up drunk driving enforcement, and enforcement of laws against sales to minors in bars. Moreover, they heavily publicized this stepped up enforcement, so students would start self-policing rather than risk getting busted.

The results? Fewer kids were getting drunk. Campuses where the police cracked down reported 6000 fewer drunk students from off-campus parties and 4000 fewer from bars.

Contrary to the oft-repeated theory that strict enforcement will just cause students to select new venues for their binge drinking (see, e.g., John Neff's comment, "advantages and disadvantages of a 21 only ordinance," on my prior alcohol blog entry), the enforcement of the law in bars and at off-campus parties did not lead to those parties just moving elsewhere, such as a public park, or dormitories.

"Go West, young man -- to Nebraska." The show's
Sarah Koenig asked Saltz if he could tell her of any university with sustained success. "Yes," he replied, "University of Nebraska, Lincoln."

In 1998 the University of Nebraska teamed up with the City of Lincoln and together they declared a data-driven, goal-oriented all out war on out-of-control drinking.

What did they do?

Everything. There was a police crackdown. They enlisted the help of bar owners, legislators, liberal arts students, business students, and high school principals. They lobbied to digitize Nebraska's drivers licenses. They even tried to knock down the average number of drinks on a student's 21st birthday from 14 to 7.

Linda Major, Assistant to the Vice Chancellor at UNL, was the general in this war. Breaking up wild parties in residential neighborhoods was one of the most controversial things they did early on, but also one of the most effective. "Over time the party patrol went out very few weekends, but people believed it could happen any weekend."

The results? There have been far fewer complaints from Lincoln residents about UNL students' drunken behavior. Students report they are studying more and getting more sleep. There were fewer drop outs, reports of unwanted sex, and arrests for driving drunk. Way more freshmen were abstaining entirely from alcohol. And the proportion of UNL students engaging in binge drinking sank from 63% of the student body in 1997 down to 42% by 2007.

Why haven't Penn State (and the University of Iowa) had results like this? Because, says Saltz, they refuse to do what UNL has done: "join with the town and declare total war." Why won't they ban alcohol from the dorms? Or take on the widespread underage drinking? Or punish students more harshly; expell them even, when they break the law?

Damon Simms, is Penn State's VP for Student Affairs. He has met with virtually everybody: the town manager, editor of the local paper, city council, student government, university police, faculty, and fraternity leaders. He has a list of ideas that is 72 items long, and says that sacred cows need to be reconsidered: grade inflation, troublesome fraternities, out-of-control tailgating. So far he's established new sanctions for students who break alcohol laws; fraternities have new rules (such as no more Wednesday night parties; on other nights a photo ID required for entry, and there must be bouncers to enforce the rules). But he is not optimistic any, or all, of these ideas will make a major difference.

Proposal and Conclusion.

I have long argued, in some 30 blog entries on this subject, that the University of Iowa's inability to solve its alcohol problem is not the result of a lack of possible solutions or resources. It is the lack of will. There's nothing in This American Life's "#1 Party School" program to change my assessment.

But I do think that the results of Saltz' California study, and the impressive results from the UNL-City of Lincoln effort, help to reenforce my assertions that there are solutions available.

Here are some summary suggestions:

1. Keep in mind Saltz' simple insight and implied goal: "You reduce risk by limiting kids' access to alcohol; the less alcohol is available the less kids drink; the less they drink the fewer bad things happen."

2. Recognize the painful truth that even though we can successfully increase our students' knowledge about the adverse consequences of alcohol abuse, not even the best of this planet's world class universities can "teach" their students into drinking less.

3. As with any successful human undertaking, whatever we decide to do it should be sufficiently data driven and goal oriented that we can evaluate our results and become better informed regarding "what works" based on our own experience here in Iowa City. (UI's Provost Wallace Loh has made some suggestions in this direction.)

4. Recognize that until the leadership of the University (Regents, President and Vice Presidents) and City (City Council and City Manager) really want to actually change student behavior, as distinguished from public relations efforts, it is unlikely any meaningful change in that behavior will occur.

5. If and when that focused determination and agreement occur, it will be useful to designate a "general" to (a) come up with the "data driven, goal oriented" plan, (b) including the range of most promising approaches, and (c) involving the widest possible array of potential stakeholders in the solution.

6. Anything short of "an all out war on out-of-control drinking" is unlikely to be successful in significantly moderating students' drinking behavior. What the data from California and Nebraska suggest is that the most effective strategy for such a war is a combined City and University police crackdown on off-campus parties as well as drunken behavior, and underage drinking, in the bars -- including the enactment of a meaningful "21-only" ordinance. At the outset it would need to be relatively constant; but this could soon become more random (and less demanding of police resources) -- so long as the students' perception is that it could happen to them at any time, and that the consequences are severe. (Note that, while "underage drinking" remains an offense and is included as a target of the "war," the primary focus is on "drunk and disorderly" behavior and its tragic consequences.)

7. Football weekends are their own problem and it, too, is severe, especially for those in neighborhoods adjacent the stadium. It also needs to be addressed. But the football problems are limited to a half-dozen or so weekends a year.

8. From the standpoint of student health and safety (as distinguished from adverse impact on Iowa City residents), the far more serious problem involves the other 45 weekends of student alcohol abuse each year -- "weekends" of what The Daily Iowan describes as "80 Hours" (in a week of 168 hours) that run from Thursday through Sunday nights. There may be some overlap of strategies between the football and other weekends, but the focus of this blog entry -- and the success in California and Nebraska -- is on those far more numerous weekends when we don't have 70,000 additional potential drinkers in town.

Well, here's a plan for doing something meaningful about Iowa City's alcohol problem. Based on the California and Nebraska experience, it looks like it would work as well for Iowa City as it has elsewhere. If you have a better idea, put it in a comment on this blog entry.

Meanwhile, if you're a University administrator, or City Council member, or just generally interested in the issues, I seriously urge you to watch "Haze," the film discussed above, before speaking out, let alone voting, on matters related to alcohol. Here is the film:



If after watching it the leaders of the University of Iowa and City of Iowa City continue to do nothing meaningful about the problem we will then at least know that it is a purposeful and deliberate decision on their part to put the interests of bar owners over the health and safety of our students. It is not for a lack of available remedies.
_______________
* Why do I put this blog ID at the top of the entry, when you know full well what blog you're reading? Because there are a number of Internet sites that, for whatever reason, simply take the blog entries of others and reproduce them as their own without crediting the source. I don't mind the flattering attention, but would appreciate acknowledgment as the source, even if I have to embed it myself. -- Nicholas Johnson
# # #

Friday, December 25, 2009

Kiva 2009: Don't Give Money, Loan It

December 25, 2009, 6:10 a.m.

The Charitable Gift That Literally Keeps on Giving . . .
and Costs You Nothing

This is the season of giving. This year it's also the season of recession. We've given the Salvation Army bell ringers 7% less than last year, the organization reports. Other charities are suffering similar declines.

We want to do more, but it's not irrational to save more for ourselves at such a time: "charity begins at home" -- our home. That's the dilemma.

Is there any way we could give away our money but still somehow, magically keep it? "Impossible!" you say? It's not impossible. It's Kiva.

Here's a winter holiday blog entry originally published two years ago, slightly updated at the end with new numbers:
_______________

While we're enjoying (or suffering from) the excesses of the holiday season, a good many Americans' thoughts turn to what we should be doing for others.

Add it all up and divide by 300 million Americans and it turns out [that in 2007] we're averaging nearly $1000 in charitable contributions from every woman, man and child. Last year we gave a total of $295 billion, 83% of which came from individuals. We averaged contributions of 2.2% of our disposable income (65% of all households earning under $100,000 a year were contributors). Of that total nearly half went to religious organizations and educational institutions. Add to these numbers the value of the donated time of that half of our population that does volunteer work of some kind each year, and we can feel fairly good about what we're doing for others. Jeffrey Thomas, "Charitable Donations by Americans Reach Record High; Individual giving accounts for 83 percent of $295 billion total in 2006," USINFO.state.gov, June 26, 2007.

And yet, despite our best efforts, there are still over one billion people "living" (if it can be called that) on less than one dollar a day; every day 24,000 children die of hunger; 10 million under the age of five die every year of the diseases resulting from a lack of clean water. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, "A World Mired in Despair of Poverty 'Will Not be a World at Peace,'" October 17, 2003; Jan Eliasson and Susan Blumenthal, "Dying for A Drink of Clean Water," Washington Post, September 20, 2005, p. A23.

Nor are these our only fellow humans in need of economic assistance of some kind.

Clearly, our government should do more of our share to help the rest of the world. But the fact remains that, even with increased government aid and individuals' philanthropy, we can't do this job alone -- especially given the proportion of our government's overseas aid that ends up in the Swiss bank accounts of corrupt local officials and American contractors.

So what to do?

You've heard of Lao Tzu's Chinese proverb, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." The only trouble with this solution is that the man, or woman, may not be able to afford a fishing pole -- or whatever else they may need to not only feed themselves, but start a modest fishing business.

Enter Kiva.

It has been said that information, a learned skill, or an idea, are examples of a kind of "property" that you can give to another and still retain for yourself.

So it is with the money you give to Kiva. Kiva invests it, but you still have it. It's not a "donation" or "contribution." It's money that's not given, it's loaned (and to a recipient of your choice, not Kiva's) from a Kiva account in your name that you control.

Kiva's network enables you to become a "micro-banker" making "micro-loans" to specific individuals around the world.

And because the repayment rates are so close to 100% -- a much better payback rate than what many of our commercial banks get from their business customers (or you may have received on loans to family members and friends) -- you'll be able to loan that money over and over again.

Have you ever thought twice about giving $25 to a charitable organization, as you wonder how much of your money is going for fund raising expenses, or to well-paid American executives, rather than to supporting the poor or projects the organization represents to be its purpose? Have you ever said to yourself, "What difference will my little contribution make?"

Well, with Kiva every penny of your loan goes to the recipient of your choice. There are no fund raising expenses, no high salaries, no overhead!

(Of course, if you choose to do so you can also contribute to Kiva to support its administrative costs. But the contribution will not come out of the money you've loaned, is certainly not required, and if you do want to contribute it is a separate transaction.)

As the Kiva Web site explains:
Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world. By choosing a business on Kiva.org, you can "sponsor a business" and help the world's working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates from the business you've sponsored. As loans are repaid, you get your loan money back.
This is an approach that ought to appeal to all. Liberals should appreciate the opportunity to help others. Conservatives should support the idea of loans rather than gifts, and giving to businesses rather than making "welfare payments." Libertarians ought to like the idea of keeping the government ("our tax dollars") out of it. (I saw Texas Congressman Ron Paul's picture as a contributor to a Kiva loan recently.)

Want to do something really effective about "the immigration problem" from the south? Loan the little money needed by potential entrepreneurs in Mexico, Central and South America. It will help enable them to continue to live better in their home country, employ others in their community, circulate their profits with purchases in the local economy, and better support and educate their children. [Maria Esthela Sifuentes Hernandez, pictured above in her grocery store, was one of my borrowers in 2008. The loan was for $600, my share was $25, she repaid it in full and on time, and I loaned out the same $25 again -- this time to a woman starting a taxi business in Mongolia. I tend to favor loans to women (80% of Kiva loans go to women) because of the additional positive impact on families and the community.]

The minimum contribution to a loan request is $25 -- and it looks like that's what a lot of contributors choose. But it's amazing how fast, once a loan request is posted on the Kiva site, that 40 individual Kiva contributors, together, can come up with a requested $1000 loan.

There's much more to learn about Kiva than I can reproduce here. But this picture illustrates a couple extra points I'll make quickly. (1) One of the reasons the payback records are so good is the social pressure the recipients provide each other when they apply for loans as a village group. The five women in this picture are "Nassra's Umoja Group," organized by Nassra Said Abdalla in Tanzania. They are making telephone service available through the sale of phone vouchers. Obviously, I find this telecommunications entrepreneurial effort especially attractive, not the least because of the greater-than-average economic multiplier they are providing by enabling business transactions by others' use of phones. (2) It is possible to give Kiva gift certificates to your friends. One of my sons gave me one this year [2009]. And "Nassra's Umoja Group" is one that I gave to my sister; so now she's following the progress of her Tanzania "business partners."

The Kiva Web site reports this morning [Dec. 26, 2007] that this week alone $750,000 has been contributed for loans, 17,000 new lenders have joined Kiva, over 1000 new businesses have been started, 323 entrepreneurs finished paying back their loans, and the average loan, once posted to the Web site, was fully funded within 7.5 hours.

That was two years ago. Today? "Since it’s founding four years ago, [Kiva] has now made possible $100 million in microloans between individual lenders and entrepreneurs all around the world. The company has brought together 573,000 lenders (people like you and me putting in $25 or more towards a specific project), and 239,000 entrepreneurs." Erick Schonfeld, "Four Years After Founding, Kiva Hits $100 Million In Microloans," TechCrunch, November 1, 2009. (For links to Kiva stories in dozens of America's mainstream media, see the organization's "Press Center"; TechCrunch just happened to be at the top of the page just now.)

Because you will (virtually always, but of course not guaranteed or insured) get your loan repaid, but will receive no interest on it, the only "cost" to you of this operation is the "opportunity cost" of what you would have earned on that loan if, instead of loaning it through Kiva, or spending it at Starbucks, you invested it in a CD paying at today's rates about 2% interest. How much is that? On a $25 loan literally 50 cents for the year.

Of course, there are costs of this program -- it's just that they are not costs that you will have to pay. "Kiva" is only a small staff in San Francisco with a global computer network. It works through micro-loan organizations it calls its "field partners" in the countries involved. Those are the organizations that evaluate the potential borrowers, provide them financial and business skills, dispense and collect repayments on the loans. But these field partners' expenses, such as they are, are paid by the recipient of your loan, not you. Yes, your borrower will have to pay interest. But it will be a very small fraction of the prohibitive rates of interest charged by the for-profit individuals or institutions in the recipient's country.

As a lender you can read all about your recipient of choice, the record of the field partner administering your loan, often see pictures of their project, and get regular updates on the progress of their business and repayments. Not only does it not cost you anything, it also makes you much closer to the ultimate recipient than a charitable contribution to a national, state or local organization.

Charitable giving is important, even essential to the continuation of many non-profits in our country. We need to continue to give as generously as our circumstances make possible.

But there is this additional option for you to "be the bank", a "microlender" to the world of worthy potential (and existing) entrepreneurs in third world countries.

Now, while you're thinking about it, check out http://www.kiva.org, and see what I've been talking about.

Make it a Happy New Year -- for you, and for the series of recipients who will benefit from that first Kiva loan of yours, as it's returned to you, and loaned out again and again throughout the years to come.


# # #

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Plugge Era: 1999-2010

December 24, 2009, 2:00 p.m.

Thanks for the Memories
(brought to you by FromDC2Iowa.blogspot.com*)

Two days ago the Press-Citizen reported that the Iowa City Community School District Superintendent, Lane Plugge, will be resigning the end of this school year to become the chief administrator of the Green Hills Area Education Agency in Council Bluffs. Rob Daniel, "Plugge leaving for new position; Says job in Western Iowa closer to family," Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 22, 2009. [Photo credit: Press-Citizen.] Today the paper devoted a lengthy editorial to his years here, and some requests regarding what the paper would like for him to do before he leaves. Editorial, "A challenge for Lane Plugge during his final six months," Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 24, 2009, p. 7A.

Debbie and Lane have never made a secret of their love for Nebraska (and the Huskers!), their family ties there, and their desire to be closer. Ten years in one place is a long run for anyone in the superintendent biz, so it's not exactly like they're running out on us.

Still, it was a real pleasure to get to know both of them, and I'll miss them. They're the kind of folks you'd like to have as next door neighbors, and had they been I'm sure we would have spent a lot of time together.

During my three years on the School Board I always found Lane to be accommodating and reasonable and a pleasure to work with. Indeed that's a reason why, after a near-five-year hiatus of silence on education issues, as I've returned to expressing some views about District matters my focus has been on the failures of the School Board rather than the Superintendent.

I remain convinced that any school board that would properly do its job, expressing its goals and governance wishes with clarity, would find that Lane would be doing his best to give the Board whatever it said it wanted -- within the bounds of federal, state, and local law and regulations. Requiring a superintendent to perform the board's job as well as his own is as unfair as it is inappropriate.

Being a superintendent is kind of a thankless job under the best of circumstances. There are just too many categories of stakeholders, not to mention individuals, all of whom demand to be pleased even though their wishes are often mutually inconsistent: government officials, other District administrators, teachers and other employees, parents, students, media, taxpayers, Democrats and Republicans.

I once asked Walter Cronkite's sidekick commentator, Eric Sevareid, dubbed "the grey eminence," how he felt about working at CBS. He said it was similar to "the sensation of being eaten by ducks."

My guess is that Lane must have felt a similar sensation some days.

Anyhow, rather than wait until next June to say goodbye, I thought I'd take this occasion to wish him and Debbie all the best on this new venture.

Donald Kaul and I once decided that Iowa's motto should be, "Warmer than Minnesota, more fun than Nebraska." It turned out it was too long to fit on a license plate. And besides, with Lane closer to the border even Nebraska might be more fun. But it's our loss.
_______________
* Why do I put this blog ID at the top of the entry, when you know full well what blog you're reading? Because there are a number of Internet sites that, for whatever reason, simply take the blog entries of others and reproduce them as their own without crediting the source. I don't mind the flattering attention, but would appreciate acknowledgment as the source, even if I have to embed it myself. -- Nicholas Johnson
# # #

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Best Show in Town

December 19, 2009, 8:30 a.m.

Tonight's the Last Night
(brought to you by FromDC2Iowa.blogspot.com*)

Iowa City's recognized as a "City of Literature."

It's also a "City of Theater," companies and venues -- City Circle, Community Theater, Dreamwell, Englert, Hancher, Riverside, University Theater, and our three high schools, City, Tate and West.

In many ways one of the most innovative and interesting is "Combined Efforts Community Theater."

The theater a creative idea of Janet Schlapkohl that lives up to its name. She's the gifted playwright and director. The actors and support staff are volunteers from throughout the community, with and without special needs, of all ages, from a range of grade and high schools (including recent graduates) -- using City High's Little Theater, generously provided as a venue.

Their winter performance is an adaptation of the Scrooge story: "A Carol for Our Time," with Alec Grubbe, left, as Scrooge.

In addition to the quality of the show, and the moving way in which those with and without special needs support each other, at $5.00 it's Iowa City's best entertainment bargain this evening.

Understandably, it's enjoyed sell-out crowds Thursday and Friday nights (December 17 and 18), and will undoubtedly be a sell-out tonight as well. It starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets at the door. So if you plan on going it's best to get there by 7:00. Better still, call 319-321-7926, and leave a voice message if necessary, to reserve tickets ahead of time.

Here's co-director Mary Vasey's letter to the editor describing the project and its latest show. Mary Vasey, "Theater Can be Model for Other Groups," Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 15, 2009.

Theater can be model for other groups

Let me introduce you to one more of our theatrical treasures: Combined Efforts Community Drama.

Its members are children, youth and adults with and without special needs. It was started five years ago at City High by Janet Schlapkohl and a small group of students and parents. Since then, it has grown to include, in addition to students, many community members. This year the group added summer stock and produced an original play with music called "Zombie Hotel."

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the presentation at the City High Little Theatre is an adaptation of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" titled "A Carol for Our Time." The cast of 40 actors, singers and dancers present scenes from the original plus a glimpse of a possible future that we, like Scrooge, can change for the better.

This is a unique group. I learned about it last summer and became involved almost immediately. I have worked with drama in alternative schools for years so I appreciate what it can do to foster everyone's self confidence, cooperation and mutual respect.

The degree to which the members of the Combined Efforts Community Drama troupe show respect for one another is awe inspiring. These young people are willing to make time to share their talents in spite of the fact that many have incredibly busy schedules. The result is a quality performance that features and challenges every participant in addition to thoroughly entertaining the audience.

Because it involves actors and crew with and without special needs it can be a model for other groups who see value in diversity and just plain good theater.
There are a number of reasons why Iowa City is often ranked as one of the best American cities for quality of life. "Combined Efforts Community Theater" is yet one more very powerful example.

[Full disclosure: Although I have no personal connection with this project, co-director Mary Vasey is my wife; the acting coach is our professional actor/director son, Jason; Scrooge was played by his son, Alec; and the project photographer, Andi, is known in our ever growing "bigger and stranger family" as my "sister-in-law for life." I'm proud of them all.]
_______________
* Why do I put this blog ID at the top of the entry, when you know full well what blog you're reading? Because there are a number of Internet sites that, for whatever reason, simply take the blog entries of others and reproduce them as their own without crediting the source. I don't mind the flattering attention, but would appreciate acknowledgment as the source, even if I have to embed it myself. -- Nicholas Johnson
# # #

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

UI's Alcohol Problem: Many Solutions, Little Will

December 16, 2009, 9:35 a.m.

Alcohol Back in the News? No, Always in the News
(brought to you by FromDC2Iowa.blogspot.com*)

[Click here for an annotated, chronological list with links to 31 prior blog entries on this and related subjects. And see, "UI's Alcohol Abuse: Look to Nebraska; What Works to Reduce College Students' Alcohol Abuse," December 28, 2009.]

In the 12 years that I spent on the council, I tried several times to get the council to pass a 21 ordinance. University of Iowa presidents Mary Sue Coleman and David Skorton also encouraged the council to pass such an ordinance -- along with the UI College of Public Health, the public school system and numerous others within the community. In fact, every piece of credible evidence presented to the council called for a 21 ordinance -- all of which the council ignored, choosing instead to listen to the bar owners and patrons of the bars.

-- Former Iowa City Mayor, Ernie Lehman, "Council's Moral Character Problem," Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 26, 2009, p. A11
Iowa City's alcohol problem is serious. "How serious is it?" I hear Johnny Carson's audience respond.

It is so serious that the University of Iowa's college paper, the award-winning Daily Iowan, normally a supporter of the free flow of alcohol to students of all ages, has decided it must at least try to explain the problem to those who profess to be adults: members of the Iowa City City Council and the UI's top administrators. "Number of UI alcohol crimes rise," Daily Iowan, December 4, 2009; Danny Valentine, "The Siren Song of Alcohol," Daily Iowan, December 7, 2009, p. A1; and Editorial, "The comprehensive solutions to solving the drinking problem," Daily Iowan, December 7, 2009, p. A6.

Danny Valentine's major spread on the subject, with the graphic photos, was especially powerful. And see Rekha Basu, "Don't dismiss college drinking as harmless," Des Moines Register, December 9, 2009.

Unfortunately, even that report doesn't seem to have had much effect in stiffening the spines of those who, if they were to do anything meaningful, would have to stand toe-to-toe with the powerful alcohol industry, bar owners, and their landlords.

Meanwhile, the latest in a decades-long string of alcohol committees and task forces has now decided the subject is so sensitive that they have to exclude the public from its meetings and conduct their conversations in secret. Regina Zilbermints, "Alcohol group meets — in private," Daily Iowan, December 15, 2009.

The Iowa City City Council is unwilling to enforce the law in the way that rational cities do: with ordinances providing that those who are legally forbidden to possess, buy, or consume alcohol cannot be admitted to establishments the sole purpose of which is to profit from selling them alcohol. See, e.g., Rachel Gallegos, "Ames 21-only ordinance 'piece of a larger strategy,'" Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 27, 2007. (The Council and UI were even unwilling to support an ordinance that would have permitted them to consume alcohol illegally up until 10:00 p.m., but required them to leave the bars during the hours when the fights break out, from 10:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m.) So it focuses on the number of underage drinkers found in the bars, and refuses to grant liquor licenses to the worst offenders. In addition to being irrational, there are three other things wrong with this approach: (1) with 50 bars within walking distance of the campus, closing one or two won't have much effect on the levels, and consequences, of binge drinking. (2) The bars aren't closed, they are permitted to continue to operate while they appeal. (3) And how's even this weak-kneed approach been working for the City? Not well. Josh O'Leary, "Judge: Bars should be allowed to serve alcohol," Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 16, 2009; Nicole Karlis, "Judge overturns liquor-license denials," Daily Iowan, December 16, 2009.

The Council's other worthless effort is the requirement that bars can only be within a given distance of each other. Why worthless? No bars are closed; they are all grandfathered in. Moreover, as I understand it, if any bar owner ever did want to give up his or her liquor license, this license to print money, all they would need to do is to sell the bar to another bar owner. That would not be considered the establishment of a new bar.

Fortunately, there is one adult in Iowa City who is internationally recognized for his research and knowledge of this subject. That's the good news. The bad news is that little more attention has been paid to his findings by Iowa City's powers that be than has been paid to my comparable suggestions (which are, admittedly, less worthy of attention than his). Peter Nathan, "Guest: To curb drinking problem, look to research and parental involvement," Daily Iowan, December 15, 2009.

I cite, and am about to quote from, this op ed column not for the specifics of what it contains. There's no way that a lifetime of Peter Nathan's research can be presented in a brief op ed column.

No, I refer to it for the broader observation I have often made in writing about this subject over the years: In dealing with problems of alcohol abuse and its consequences on college campuses, the challenge is not one of finding possible solutions. It may be science, but it's not rocket science. The solutions, the data, the best practices, are out there. Indeed, in addition to the results from colleges and cities around the country (and the world) the U.S. Department of Education has an entire center devoted to the subject: The U.S. Department of Education's Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention.

No, the challenge, Iowa City's challenge, is figuring out how to get those who could implement those solutions to do so.

Perhaps what we need is to feed the City Council members and UI administrators the Powdermilk Biscuits that Garrison Keillor says will "give shy persons the strength to get up and do what needs to be done."

Here are some excerpts from Nathan's column:
The Dec. 7 Daily Iowan article “The siren song of alcohol” brought home with great immediacy the terrible consequences of high-risk drinking at the UI. Admittedly, a good deal of what was written is familiar: Iowa’s dubious standing as one of the nation’s leaders in abusive drinking, the high rates of student self-reports of adverse consequences of this drinking, the growing numbers of arrests for alcohol-related events in Iowa City, and the proliferation of bars in the city. But interwoven with these familiar observations were the graphic, eyewitness reports chronicling the suffering of UI lethal drinkers because of their drinking. That was new on the pages of the DI. . . .

It’s hard to read about the college-age man crumpled and abandoned on the curb outside One-Eyed Jakes, his body immobilized by alcohol. Or the Code 3 young woman, disoriented and covered with blood, unsure of where she is. Or the bloodied student outside Summit Bar and Restaurant, punched by someone he didn’t know. . . .

[I]t’s hard to deny that high-risk drinking takes a huge toll on UI students. . . .

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has compiled a list of programs that “have proven effectiveness.” . . .

[S]trategies include increased enforcement of the minimum drinking-age laws, enforcement of other laws to reduce alcohol-impaired driving, restrictions on the density of alcohol outlets, increased prices on alcoholic beverages, and more responsible beverage-server policies. . . . [A] more rigorous and consistent effort to change the drinking environment here may be worth the effort.

[It] could well include a solicitation for greater involvement of parents . . .. Research done at universities elsewhere suggests that increased parental involvement in their students’ decisions about drinking may help moderate abusive drinking.
As I noted earlier, it's neither Nathan's purpose nor mine to itemize and explain even the best, let alone all, of the strategies supported by research and other universities' experience.

As I wrote over a year ago on the occasion when a number of university presidents were proposing lowering the drinking age to a 18 (a movement that UI's President Sally Mason, commendably, refused to join):

The problem is that when these academic leaders are called on the fact they are ignoring the scientific literature on the subject that has come from research at "America's Best" academic institutions, they do the little sidestep . . .

video


[The preceding one-minute fair use clip is from the delightful 1982 R-rated full-length musical comedy, "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," staring Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton, among a great many other accomplished and well-known actors, and still available for rental and sale. It's based on a true story of a brothel outside LaGrange, Texas, that was ultimately closed down in 1973, following the work of investigative reporter Marvin Zindler of KTRK-TV, Houston. The writing was done by Larry King (whom I remember from Austin in the 1950s), the Governor was played by Charles Durning, and the studio was RKO Pictures. The film is copyright by, presumably, RKO. The use of this miniaturized, very brief clip is for non-commercial, educational and commentary fair use purposes only. Any other use may require the permission of the copyright owner.]

. . . and say, "Oh, we're not really proposing the age be dropped to 18, our statement just calls for 'an informed and dispassionate public debate.'" Which, indeed, it does.

But for a group of academics to say they want an informed debate while simultaneously excluding from that debate any and all solid evidence that is contrary to their position, and urging little better by way of support than one could get from any drunken undergraduate at one of their campus bars on a Friday night, does not speak well for "the academy."

See, e.g., these excerpts from "Underage Drinking: Why Do Adolescents Drink, What Are the Risks, and How Can Underage Drinking Be Prevented?" Alcohol Alert, no. 67, January 2006, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Perhaps most telling is this statement under "Interventions for Preventing Underage Drinking": "Increasing the age at which people can legally purchase and drink alcohol has been the most successful intervention to date . . .."

The "most successful intervention to date" and these 114 "higher education leaders" (a) make no reference to the finding, and (b) pick doing away with it as their top priority for treating the binge-drinking problem?

"Solving Illegal Behavior Problems by Making It Legal," August 20, 2008.
No, the purpose of this blog entry is simply to make the point again, as I have over and over during the past couple of decades, that until the Council and UI administrators demonstrate the willingness to take whatever political heat may result from effective action, illegal alcohol consumption by UI's undergraduates will continue to cause all too many to continue to flunk out, drop out, and pass out.
_______________

For other recent blog entries you may be looking for, go to "There Is No War in Afghanistan," December 4, 2009, and look through the links at the bottom of that blog entry.
_______________
* Why do I put this blog ID at the top of the entry, when you know full well what blog you're reading? Because there are a number of Internet sites that, for whatever reason, simply take the blog entries of others and reproduce them as their own without crediting the source. I don't mind the flattering attention, but would appreciate acknowledgment as the source, even if I have to embed it myself. -- Nicholas Johnson
# # #

Here are 31 prior blog entries regarding Iowa City's alcohol problem, its consequences, and possible remedies:

"More College Football Conflicts & Concerns," October 7, 2006 ("The University of Iowa, ranked even highter nationally for the quantity of its students' drinking than for the quality of its football team (now 15th), professes to be making efforts to curb student drunkenness. It has something called the 'Stepping Up Project, which encourages students to avoid alcohol.' The co-chair is Jim Clayton. He was not enthusiastic about the 'University of Iowa plan to sell alcohol to people in Kinnick Stadium’s luxury seating areas this year,' because as he says, 'It’s a cultural message that we send to young people that alcohol has to be part of a sporting event.'");

"I'll Drink to That; Binge and problem drinking by college (and high school) students," October 10, 2006 ("Finding ideas regarding what can be done to alleviate college students' excessive drinking is not a tough research job. Put both "alcohol" and "college" into Google . . . and you get 29,700,000 hits in 3/10ths of one second. . . . But the one at the top of that list, 'College Drinking,' is not a bad place to start. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health seemed to me an especially rich repository of information, research data, and best practices. And if that's not enough, as noted, there are another 29,000,000 to explore.");

"'Hat's Off' to the Press-Citizen," October 12, 2006 ("Both the Press-Citizen and The Gazette editorialized this morning (October 12) regarding the recent task force proposals about UI undergraduates' binge drinking. . . . Both took positions consistent with my blog entry yesterday, that the problems, and recommendations, have been around for decades and that nothing gets accomplished, not for a lack of solutions, but for a lack of will on the part of the Iowa City City Council, seemingly beholden to the local owners of the 42 bars competing for student drunks.");

"Public Officials and Private Actions," August 7, 2007 ("However serious DWI may be, however appropriate editorial and other campaigns to prevent it may be, I don't think it's warranted to select and publicize such an offense as a means of attacking an 'enemy,' and calling for his or her resignation (which the attacker would have wished for anyway, with or without the DWI) -- unless there is reason to believe the official's performance in their job has been impaired in some way.");

"We're Number 5! and Athletes Crowding Jails," August 21, 2007 ("by golly we're 5th in the nation for students' consumption of hard liquor according to the Princeton Review (not to mention number of bars per student and "most profitable market in which to operate a bar with the least City Council and University oversight" according to me). Hey, at least we're known for something positive around here. Hieu Pham, "UI Again Ranks Among Party Schools; School Also Ranks 5th for Hard Liquor Use, 18th for Beer Use," Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 21, 2007, p. A1. . . . The University's own statistics reveal that 'nearly 70 percent of U of I students surveyed last fall by Student Health Services said they had participated in binge drinking in the previous two weeks.'");

"Abu Ghraib, Rumsfeld, and Athletes' Facebook Photos," August 23, 2007 ("'The Facebook pages of more than 20 underaged University of Iowa football players have photos appearing to show them engaging alcohol in various ways, from drinking to posing with liquor bottles or beer cans. . . . "She can't say no if her mouth is taped shut," is posted as a favorite quote on one player's page.' Brian Morelli, "Alcohol Abundant on Players' Sites; Review Shows Questionable Material," Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 23, 2007. You see, the problem is not that athletes (and other students) might feel that way, think those things, or even say those things. The problem is that when they put them up on their Facebook page it risks embarrassing the University. . . . Is it that we really care one way or the other whether our students are abusing alcohol, consider rape a matter of right, and credit cards free for the taking? Or is it just that we don't want to suffer the institutional 'embarrassment' of having our students' behavior -- and our obvious attitudes about it, as reflected in our inaction -- reported by the media or otherwise widely known?");

"Hawkeye Football's Externalities," September 9, 2007 ("[My intention] is simply to try to portray, through pictures, the impact that the football program has on one of Iowa City's most historic residential neighborhoods when the football machine is fueled on alcohol and left to run without supervision.");

"Serious Reflections on "Football's Externalities," September 13, 2007("the most serious aspect of out-of-control, unsupervised, drunken mobs is their potential to create significant, regrettable disasters. You name it, you imagine it, it could happen. Fights between fans of rival teams that involve increasing numbers of people, and the resulting serious injuries or death as guns or knives are ultimately involved. When a drunken student suffocates to death on his own vomit, or falls from a building to his death (it's usually a 'his'), it may make the news. The hundreds of injuries from assaults and accidents do not. We've seen the extent of injury and death from drunken, out-of-control mobs of soccer fans around the world. It could happen here. Excessive alcohol can encourage deliberate vandalism and property damage, possibly even involving accidental or deliberate fire damage.");

"Iowa City's 'Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms,'" September 22, 2007("[There is] some question as to why the local bar owners (and their advocates on the City Council) are fearful of less revenue, since presumably they would assert they're not selling to under-age patrons now anyway -- either before or after 10:00 p.m. Iowa City's version of '21-only' doesn't even go so far as to enforce the laws already on the books in a rational way -- as is done in Ames! It leaves open the opportunity bar owners have to sell as much alcohol to under-age drinkers as they can possibly get away with up until 10:00 p.m.! And you call that 'prohibition'??!! Give me a break.");

"Music Management Revenue Alcohol -- and Good News/Alcohol and 'A Tale of Two Cities,'" October 6, 2007("As evidence that it doesn't have to be this way, that other cities take a different approach, consider what Marion, Iowa, has just done. It doesn't wink at illegal sales of alcohol to underage patrons of bars. It doesn't try to represent that kicking them out of the bars at 10 p.m. is a meaningful restriction on binge drinking. Its idea of a real loosening of restrictions on a meaningful '21-only' restriction is to permit underage patrons to enter bars (a) that do "a majority of their business in food sales," not prior to 10 p.m., but (b) between the hours of 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. for those who want to buy lunch! 'Underage Patrons OK in Bars During Midday,' The Gazette, October 6, 2007, p. B1.");

"Why '21-Only' Isn't," October 19, 2007 ("There's lots of action -- or at least discussion -- about the so-called '21-Only' proposal. Why 'so-called'? Because it's not about '21-only' at all -- notwithstanding that characterization by supporters and opponents alike. The Daily Iowan editorializes [that it's an] 'ordinance banning anyone under the age of 21 from the Iowa City bars' -- a brazenly inaccurate characterization. Editorial, "21-Only Voting Might Spur Increased Student Engagement," The Daily Iowan, October 19, 2007, p. A6. Under this proposal the Iowa law would continue to be openly violated in Iowa City's bars up until 10:00 p.m. You may think that's a good idea, you may think it's a bad idea, but it is clearly not 'banning anyone under the age of 21 from the Iowa City bars.'");

"Sidestepping; 'It's a Possible Maybe,'" October 29, 2007 ("When it comes to . . . arming campus police with handguns it is suggested that this is desirable because (a) the police advise it would be a good thing to do, and (b) 'everybody's doing it' on other Big Ten campuses. (2) But when it comes to taking a position on binge drinking . . . there is absolutely no meaningful action proposed or taken, notwithstanding that (a) the police advise it would be good to support this proposed ordinance, and (b) what "everybody's doing" -- virtually all Big Ten campuses, as well as our own sister Regents' university -- is to . . . use the common sense, no-brainer approach of banning the entry into bars of those who cannot legally engage in the activity that profits the owners of those establishments.");

"Bikes and Ballots," November 7, 2007 ("Bar owners are operating establishments the sole purpose of which is to profit from the sale and consumption of alcohol, knowing that a significant proportion of the consumption of alcohol from which they are profiting is being done by those who are doing so illegally. Therefore, I contend, they are illegal drug dealers -- with a political and economic power, not unlike the MedellĂ­n Drug Cartel in Colombia, to control our City Council and University.");

"Election Returns; City Votes FOR 10:00 p.m. Drinking Break, 90% of Residential Precincts Favor Ordinance!" November 8, 2007 ("The University is going to appoint a Task Force??!! You're going to have conversations with students and bar owners??!! You've got to be kidding -- except by now it's so damn obvious what you're doing that you're no longer kidding anyone. This University has gone through hundreds of thousands of dollars from foundations and others for its 'Stepping Up' project with no discernible impact whatsoever -- except an increase in the number of students 'Stepping Up' to the bar, binge drinking, and then staggering out (or passing out)");

"Getting Real About Alcohol; Don't Get Tough, Get Effective," January 18, 2008 ("We should not be surprised that our nation's number one hard drug problem by any measure (e.g., economic impact, health/medical consequences, numbers of people affected, involvement in crime and violence, adverse impact on the brain, prison population, unwanted sexual activity ('accidents cause people'), impact on fetus, automobile and other death and injury) is a major problem in Iowa as well.");

"Alcohol, Three Items and a Comment," January 22, 2008; ("So what are [the five] alternative approaches? (1) Enforce the 21-only law; and the most rational and administratively feasible way to do that is to follow Ames' example. If you don't want under-age students to drink you don't permit them to enter establishments the sole purpose of which is to prosper from the sale of alcohol. . . .");

"UI and the ATF II/Alcohol," February 15, 2008 ("Alcohol abuse is still in the news, creating its easily predictable consequences. (And note how many of these stories were all in one day's paper!)");

"Solving Illegal Behavior Problems by Making It Legal; Higher Education's 'Leadership,'" August 20, 2008 ("for a group of academics to say they want an informed debate while simultaneously excluding from that debate any and all solid evidence that is contrary to their position, and urging little better by way of support than one could get from any drunken undergraduate at one of their campus bars on a Friday night, does not speak well for 'the academy.'");

"Alcohol Update," September 6, 2008 ("The Iowa City City Council is responsible for the wink and a nod it all too often gives to Iowa City's alcohol industry -- the radical increase in number of bars close to campus, the drink specials and other practices designed to encourage excessive student drinking, the failure to lift liquor licenses for violations, and the (what better phrase than 'idiotically ridiculous') policy of permitting underage students into bars, the sole business purpose of which is to profit from the sale of alcohol -- presumably assuming that they're not going to drink once there.");

"The Economics of Binge Drinking: A Proposal," September 18, 2008 ("[This is] a sub-set of the focus on keg sales, beer pitcher specials, and what the Council referred to as 'well-drink or mixed-drink pitchers.' Would it be possible for the Council to legislate the elimination of such discounts? . . . Each bar owner could continue to [set prices] -- presumably coming up with prices that would maximize his or her income. But it would be required to be a permanent, fixed price -- per ounce or other volume -- that would not vary by occasion (e.g., 21st birthday), day of the week or year, or time of the day (e.g., "happy hour");

"How About Them Hawks -- Again; A Football Players' Thoughts Turn To . . .," April 7, 2009 (commentary on reports of a string of football players' arrests for alcohol abuse and its consequences);

"Onion's Binge Drinking Proposal; Creative Approaches to Alcohol Abuse," April 10, 2009 (Here is The Onion panel's discussion:


In The Know: Teenagers and Alcohol);

"Drunken Fights and Digital Photos; We're Going to Fight, Fight, Fight at Iowa!" April 13, 2009 ("Unlike the out-of-sight, out-of-mind -- and out of the media -- consequences of alcohol abuse noted in this blog entry's lead, fights inside, and immediately outside, of bars can be witnessed by police and pedestrians and photographed by anyone with a digital camera. They are, therefore, much harder to ignore.");

"Bulls, Bars and Brawls; Red Bull: 'the non-stop party-animal's hot secret,'" May 7, 2009 ("'[The death of a] student who died on a nightclub dance floor [around 3:00 a.m.] . . . may have been triggered by caffeine in the Red Bull she had been drinking . . . around four cans . . . and several VKs - a vodka based drink which also contains caffeine . . . despite efforts from staff and paramedics to revive her.' . . . I've never thought that 'educating' college students with regard to the potentially adverse consequences of alcohol abuse would do much to slow down those youngsters determined to expend their new-found "freedom" on drunkenness. . . . I do hope, however, that to the extent we are trying to provide some useful guidance that at least some mention is being made of 'energy drinks,' how they interact with alcohol, and what the consequences of that interaction can be.");

"UI's AA: Alcohol and Athletics; Alcohol, Athletics and the Inevitability of the Avoidance of Responsibility,"
June 28, 2009 ("We have a serious problem right here in River City, and I've finally and reluctantly come to the conclusion that nothing effective will ever be done about it. I'm referring to the consequences that flow from alcohol abuse by college students, athletes and non-athletes alike. . . . In fairness to the football program . . . the coaches would like to be able to avoid the adverse . . . publicity that comes with the criminal records of their players. . . . [I]t's possible that it would be worthwhile for them to put even more emphasis on knowing more about [their recruits'] . . . anti-social records . . . before they are brought to Iowa City. There are obvious limits to what any athletic program can do to reverse . . . an 'I'm so special the rules don't apply to me' sense of entitlement already firmly ingrained in a 17-or-18-year-old.");

"Some Solutions to College Binge Drinking; More on Binge Drinking -- With Some Suggestions for Solutions," July 2, 2009 ("[I]t turns out Iowa City's binge drinking problem really is both the creation and the responsibility of the University of Iowa -- although it also needs the support of the broader community. Binge drinking was not caused by the 21-only Iowa (and national) law, and it cannot be solved by lowering the age to 18. As I have argued over the years, a little research on the Internet should provide far more solutions than we've ever tried. . . . If we have not made significant strides in resolving the problem -- and we have not -- it turns out that is not because there are no potential solutions available. Since that's not the reason, I will leave it to others to speculate as to what the reasons may be.");

"Alcohol's Impact on Iowa City; Police Toss Bar Closing Recommendation to Council; Loh Talking Tough," July 24, 2009 ("Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine has made a radical proposal to the City Council: don't continue to grant liquor licenses to bars that consistently flout the law. What a concept! . . . Perhaps most impressive to me is Provost Loh's reference to some metrics for measuring 'success': alcohol-related dropouts and emergency room admissions, and blood alcohol levels in students arrested and tested. There's really no substitute for the business adage 'you get what you measure.'");

"UI Has a Drinking Problem; I'll Drink to That," November 18, 2009 ("[Last week a] Drake student with a blood alcohol level of 0.5 . . . 'nearly died' from alcohol poisoning. . . . Students will die -- whether in hospitals from alcohol poisoning, falls from buildings, choking on their own vomit, fights with or without guns, or freezing in an Iowa winter snow drift after passing out. We just don't know who or when. Students will be raped -- or as Loh and Rocklin prefer to call it, suffer an 'unwanted sexual experience.' We just don't know who, or when, or whether it will ever be reported. UI administrators will continue to suffer -- although by comparison with the students, in far less dramatic ways -- as a result. We just don't know who and when. . . . We may not need a Carrie Nation swinging her hatchet at bars and barrels of whiskey, but we do need someone with an equivalent focus, will and political courage if we're ever going to do anything meaningful about these problems. . . . Like the fellow who saw a billboard that said, 'Drink Canada Dry,' and went up there to try to do it, Iowa's students are going to continue to binge drink and they, and all the rest of us, will continue to pay the heavy, heavy consequences.")

For more on the related issues regarding the often-alcohol-induced criminal behavior of football players, see

"Hawkeyes' Criminal Record Lengthens," February 25, 2008 ("Shame on us, if a part of the reason they have become that way is because the adults in their lives have contributed to these young men's belief that skilled athletes are entitled to special treatment; a culture and law of their own; second, third, fourth and fifth chances; a wink and a nod from coaches, high school principals, and judges -- so long as they can contribute to winning teams. That doesn't excuse college athletes' behavior, but it does require us to think about the extent to which it is we who have at least contributed to the creation of the problem we confront -- from Little League through professional sports -- including right here in Hawkeye land.");

"Sexual Assaults, Athletics and the Academy; The Academy and Football: Rape and Risk Management," January 9, 2009 (it turns out that athletes' sexual assaults are sufficiently common to warrant a commercial firm's offer of training for educational administrators regarding ways to minimize the public relations damage; "[There] is a recent story out of California that also involved two football players and an unconscious young woman. . . . [I]n the California case the football players have eased the task of the prosecution somewhat by providing a videotape of their alleged crime. The primary difference between the two cases, aside from the videotaping, is that the California football players are in jail on $100,000 bond, the former Iowa players (although charged) were permitted to transfer to other schools where they are continuing to play football.");

and see the all-inclusive Web site, Nicholas Johnson, "University of Iowa Sexual Assault Controversy -- 2007-08," August 9, 2008, et seq.

# # #