Forget six weeks. If I was out of the office for six years, I probably would have come back to headlines about the University of Iowa’s drinking problems.
It’s a head-scratcher that an inclement Iowa town would be home to America’s No. 2 party school (with a bullet, according to the Princeton Review). We’re not Florida, after all, where you can at least pass out in an alley without having to worry about frostbite. But here we are.
And to the surprise of exactly no one, we’ve already seen the first gaffe concerning the UI’s marketing agreement, struck early this summer, to let Anheuser-Busch use Iowa’s Tigerhawk logo on posters, flags, beer cups and T-shirts.
Defenders of the agreement had ready-made responses to all your predictable concerns: The materials are subject to review and must warn that Responsibility Matters, they said. The beer money will fund UI alcohol harm-reduction efforts, they said.
Besides, they said, the UI has never advocated complete abstinence from alcohol, only responsibility — in other words, the deal only looks like it sends a mixed message.
But Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness neatly summed up arguments against the deal during a July Partnership for Alcohol Safety meeting, saying: "I just think it’s a bad idea." I’d have said train wreck waiting to happen.
And lo and behold, the first conflict surfaced even before students cracked open their first cold one of the semester. They were welcomed back to campus by Bud Light banners featuring the Tigerhawk and offering happy hour deals.
The bars pulled the controversial banners, which reportedly didn’t include the required rubber stamp encouragement to "drink responsibly." The UI stubbornly maintains the licensing deal doesn’t compromise their war against demon rum.
Still, I can’t help thinking that some simplified battle lines would make it a little easier for the UI to win the fight against binge drinking.
Which brings us to happy after-hours — something Iowa City Councilors are trying to curb with a new ordinance that would allow police to issue civil citations for disorderly house violations.
It seems those sneaky college kids have found a loophole that’s allowing them to get away with house parties: If the cops come a-knocking, just don’t answer the door.
Guess those savvy students have learned at least one thing at the UI: Why open the door and face the consequences of your actions when it’s so much easier just to pretend that nothing’s going on?