The Gazette Editorial Board
It’s unsurprising that more University of Iowa students are being arrested for alcohol violations, given the institution’s 2-year-old initiative to crack down on problem drinking among students.
We just wish it was as easy to make the numbers tell us more about trends in dangerous drinking among UI students, and whether that crackdown is having its intended effect.
Are more students drinking or are more getting caught? What, if anything, do increases in arrests for crimes such as drunk driving tell us about the city’s bar curfew law? Has the problem simply resurfaced off campus, as opponents predicted? And what do we make of the sharp spike in female arrests?
And the most important question of all: Will the UI ever be able to get a handle on this culture of dangerous drinking?
In the past two years, there has been a 57 percent increase in the number of female students arrested or ticketed by UI and Iowa City police officers, according to the UI Office of the Dean of Students.
Although they didn’t give a more detailed breakdown, school officials say alcohol is involved with most student arrests and citations. While it’s just one indicator, some say the increase in female student arrests could mean UI women increasingly are taking part in high-risk drinking.
That’s a trend that’s not unique to the UI, but if dangerous drinking is, in fact, on the rise among UI women — despite all the time and resources the school is dedicating toward tempering students’ drinking behaviors — it would be disappointing.
There was more troubling news in the numbers — such as a 20 percent increase in public intoxication charges and 37 percent increase in arrests for operating while intoxicated.
Do those figures signify an increase in those behaviors or simply reflect stepped-up enforcement?
One possible clue to the big picture: a recent increase in alcohol-related visits to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. There were 416 alcohol-related visits to that hospital between June 1, 2011 and May 31, 2012, compared with 364 during the same time the year before. The hospital does not keep records of how many of those patients were UI students.
At the least, it’s one more concerning statistic to add to the rest — hinting, if not conclusively showing, the UI’s battle with alcohol is far from won.
l Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org or (319) 398-8262