Saturday, September 06, 2008

Alcohol Update

September 6, 2008, 8:20 a.m.

Currently Most Popular Blog Entries

"University of Iowa Sexual Assault Controversy -- 2007-08," July 19-present (incorporating and updating original blog entry, "UI Sexual Assault Update," July 19-August 9).
"Who's The Reason?" September 5, 2008.
"City's Moral Compass is Spinning," August 27, 2008.
"Abolish Bar Exams?" August 22, 2008.
"Random Thoughts on Law School Rankings," April 29, 2008.
"Important Things in Politics," August 29, 2008.
"Police Accidental Shootings -- Of Themselves," May 9, 2008.
"Governor Sarah Palin," September 4, 2008.
"Tell Me a Story," August 30, 2008.
"Reactions to Obama's Telecom Immunity Vote," July 9, 2008.
"UI Held Hostage Day 451 - Open Letter to Regents," April 17, 2007.
"Ted, TED, Michelle and City Owned Hotels," August 26, 2008.
"Earthpark, Editorials and Beating Dead Horses," August 15, 2008.

And see, Database Index of 500-plus blog entries

Learners' Permits?

There is much to praise in UI President Sally Mason's alcohol op ed. Sally Mason, "U of I Working to Dilute Drinking Culture," Des Moines Register, September 5, 2008. (And see the excellent, "Alcohol Awareness," University of Iowa Police Crime Prevention News, September 2008.)

While much more than a public relations gesture, even that is not to be disparaged. Citizens of Iowa, especially those who are parents of UI students, need to know that the University recognizes there's a problem, is making some efforts at solving it, and that -- as so often is the case from K-12 through graduate school -- there is no substitute for parental involvement.

Here are some excerpts:

Excessive drinking by students, including underage students, is closely connected with campus crimes such as property destruction and sexual assault. For many students who fall into the drinking culture, alcohol consumption becomes a major barrier to learning and academic achievement.

A group of college presidents recently called for a national debate about the effectiveness of the minimum legal drinking age of 21. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix. . . .

You can help us by setting a good example for your children and by making responsible, legal alcohol consumption a regular topic of discussion with them. Far too many of our students arrive on our campus with a habit of excessive drinking. According to a recent study, Iowa ranked seventh in the nation in the amount of alcohol consumed by youth age 12 to 20.

The UI's "AlcoholEdu" course for the entering class and increased parental notification are but two examples she lists of University efforts.

And she's also right that the University can't fairly be charged with all the blame for the behavior of college students who have been abusing alcohol throughout high school and that behavior continues once they reach Iowa City.

Nor is the University the only institution with responsibility for the problem once it arrives here.

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. See, Nicholas Johnson, "Why'21-Only' Isn't," October 19, 2007 ("In fact, if illegal sales were not being made, if bar owners' underage patrons were not consuming alcohol illegally, why would bar owners care if the additional (19- and 20-year-old) underage students had to leave at 10:00 p.m.? Why would the 10:00 p.m. expulsion of those who shouldn't really be there at any time of day have an adverse impact on the economy or "vibrancy" of the downtown? The only reason it might have an economic impact is because bar owners have been flagrantly violating the law all along and would like to be able to continue to do so 24/7.").

Of course the bar owners, organized as the Alcohol Advisory Board, are another very powerful institution in this community. But the recent resignation of co-chairwoman Leah Cohen (owner of Bo James) points up the City Council's failure to be of assistance when Cohen has to complain of the City Council's failure to regulate the alcohol industry strictly and effectively enough! Jennifer Hemmingsen, "I.C. Alcohol Board Co-Chair Resigns," The Gazette, September 6, 2008, p. C1.

But it's also no secret that this blog contains a number of blog entries urging that some much more serious, effective, courageous and imaginative steps are required if any meaningful change in community "culture" regarding alcohol is to result.

They need not be draconian.

Following the entry about the university presidents' proposal everyone eliminate the problem by simply making the behavior legal (lower drinking age to 18), see Nicholas Johnson, "Solving Illegal Behavior Problems by Making It Legal," August 20, 2008, I had some email exchanges with those suggesting some interesting ideas.

Some made the point that the line "if you're old enough to go to war you ought to be old enough to buy a beer" is only half loony.

To understand the loony half, consider:

The fact that "if you're old enough to go to war you ought to be old enough to drive a car" doesn't protect you from the fact that driving drunk, or enough speeding tickets, may result in the loss of a driver's license.

The fact that "if you're old enough to go to war you ought to be old enough to buy a gun" doesn't permit you to buy a gun if your string of felony convictions, or serious mental illness, suggests that your having a gun is likely to cause harm to yourself or others.
I don't know if it would be administratively feasible, but is there some analogy here for the drinking age?

The problem is not, after all, the 18-year-old who has one beer with dinner. It is that he consumes a pitcher of beer with no dinner. It is his habit of drinking to get drunk -- with all the consequences President Mason refers to, and more -- that is the problem, not his legal ability to purchase a beer. Clearly, that 18-year-old regularly demonstrates with his behavior that he is not "old enough to buy a beer."

President Mason mentions one analogous approach by the University: "We are expanding the application of our Code of Student Conduct to include some off-campus violations, and will increase the sanction for 'two-strike' policy violations (OWI, public intoxication and possession of controlled substance). Students found guilty of a second violation will be suspended for one year, up from the previous one-semester suspension."

Perhaps bar entry could be limited to those who have either (a) an ID proving them to be 21 or over, or (b) an 18-year-old "drinker's permit" of some kind -- always subject to revocation for abuse (e.g., OWI, alcohol-related offenses, public intoxication, etc.). Such an approach would reduce the appeal of "getting away with something" (since their drinking would be perfectly legal), and encourage the more responsible behavior that would be a condition of retaining the privilege.

Anyhow, a lot more has been written since my "Solving Illegal Behavior Problems" blog entry, linked above.

The Director of the Presley Center for Crime and Justice Studies, University of California, Riverside, pretty much savages the university presidents' 18-year-old drinking proposal and shreds their data:

The 128 college presidents who have signed on to the Amethyst Initiative apparently are unaware of the extensive research that documented the decade of carnage that followed [the reduction of the drinking age in the 1960s and 1970s] -- not just on our highways but in our bars, streets and neighborhoods. Rates of alcohol-related traffic deaths soared. Rates of alcohol-related violence among those 18 to 20 increased. And as alcohol got more accessible to teens, more 12- and 13-year-olds started drinking.

Beginning in the late 1970s, the states, led by Minnesota, restored the drinking age to 21, and they saw corresponding drops in alcohol-related car accidents and crash-related deaths. There also eventually were reductions in youth homicide, which resulted in part from the decreased access to alcohol, both within the 18- to 20-year-old group and those under 18. . . .

[T]he Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did an analysis of 49 studies. Looking at them together, the CDC found that increasing the drinking age was an effective intervention that had significantly reduced harm and death among young people. . . .

[T]he presidents seem to have settled on approaches that will increase profits for alcohol companies at the expense of young people's lives and health.
Moreover, reducing the drinking age to 18 apparently also has a significant impact on reducing alcohol abuse of those who are younger ("for those age 12, the decline is a significant 38%").
Robert Nash Parker, "Colleges' misguided plan for drinking; College presidents are wrong. Data clearly show the damage done by letting 18- to 20 year-olds drink,"
Los Angeles Times, August 27, 2008. (The Gazette ran the piece as "College Presidents Dumb Move," September 2, 2008, p. A4.)

And the Register had a useful series of columns on the subject September 1:

Editorial, "Lower Drinking Age From 21?" Des Moines Register, September 1, 2008.

Michelle Coles, "Keep 21 law: It saves lives," Des Moines Register, September 1, 2008 (victims' advocate for Mothers Against Drunk Driving).

Gary W. Kendell, "Delaying use of alcohol benefits society," Des Moines Register, September 1, 2008 (director of the Iowa Office of Drug Control Policy).

James E. Collins, "What's clear: Current approach isn't working," Des Moines Register, September 1, 2008 (president of Loras College).

Meanwhile, as a part of the UI football program's outreach efforts:

An arrest warrant has been issued for a former University of Iowa football player charged with armed robbery last month in a Detroit suburb.

Dominique Douglas, 20, was charged Aug. 1 with armed robbery, motor vehicle fraud and carrying a concealed weapon . . ..

Douglas pleaded guilty in December to unauthorized use of a credit card after he and teammate Anthony Bowman stole credit cards from U of I students and used them to make online purchases. The men were given deferred judgments, which allowed them to avoid jail and have their convictions erased if they completed a two-year probation.

Douglas is accused of violating his probation with the Michigan charges, according to the complaint. If found guilty, Douglas could serve up to two years in an Iowa prison and be fined up to $6,250. . . .

Douglas and Bowman were charged in August 2007 with unauthorized use of credit cards after attempting to go on a $2,000 shopping spree with stolen cards. While awaiting trial on that charge, Douglas was charged with fifth-degree theft for stealing DVDs from Wal-Mart. He pleaded guilty and paid a $100 fine.
Erin Jordan, "Former Hawkeye charged with armed robbery in Detroit," Des Moines Register, September 5, 2008; and next day, Erin Jordan, "Ex-Hawk Now Faces Charges in Michigan," Des Moines Register, September 6, 2008.

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Unknown said...

The Universities should introduce Alcohol Prevention Plan, which sets objectives campus wide so that students stop drinking alcohol at campus and giving information on drug and alcohol to the students may help in preventing usage of it.

california dui

sajohnson said...

I like the idea (mentioned in this and previous blog entries) of lowering the drinking age to 18 (to correspond with essentially every other "adult" activity) but having it be provisional.

Like it or not, as long as some college students can legally purchase alcohol, the underage students _will_ be able to get it very easily.

It makes sense to set the drinking age at 18 but make it contingent upon responsible behavior. There could be a 1, 2 or 3 strike policy, depending upon the infraction (passing out on someone's lawn does not rise to the level of assault).