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How will 21-only affect discipline?

University of Iowa officials have mixed expectations on whether the number of alcohol infractions incurred by students will go up or down with the new 21-only ordinance on the books.

The UI Dean of Students office investigated 101 alcohol consumption and possession complaints in 2008-09, and University Housing investigated 649 underage alcohol infractions, according to the 2008-09 student discipline report, which is the most recent UI has made public.

“I am not quite sure how it will affect things. I am not a person who is inclined to predict (what will happen) when we are doing something brand new,” said Tom Baker, the associate dean of students and director of the student conduct office.

Still, Baker said that with his jurisdiction expanding this year with a new policy that will penalize students for arrests and citations they receive off campus as well as on campus, and with two more staff members, he expects to conduct more investigations.

UI imposed 361 disciplinary and other sanctions on UI students ranging from warnings to probation to substance abuse counseling to 16 suspensions of varying lengths, according to the 2008-09 report. That includes infractions beyond alcohol, but alcohol is by far the most common offense officials deal with, according to data in the report.

UI deals with fewer alcohol-related offenses then some schools. Penn State University’s judicial affairs office, for example, assigned sanctions for 913 alcohol offenses, according to its annual assessment report. However, Penn State also is a larger school.
It is difficult to compare alcohol offenses because of differing sizes of student bodies and how many students live on campus, Baker said.

Kate Fitzgerald, UI assistant director for residence life, said that because most of the students living in student housing have traditionally been too young to get into bars, the new ordinance probably will not have an effect on cases she sees.

“I don’t think so. Most students we see are coming from house parties,” Fitzgerald said.

In 2008-09, 16 students were suspended from the residence hall, which is separate from the suspension from the dean of students, according to the discipline report.

The biggest influence on alcohol infractions in the dorms is the cost of UI fines compared with fines for underage drinking in Iowa City, Fitzgerald said. When UI’s fines are lower, infractions go up, she said. When UI raises its fines to mirror the city’s fines, the infractions go down, she said.

Since the 21-only ordinance took effect, there is a $735 fine for being younger than 21 in an Iowa City bar after 10 p.m. The residence hall fines range from $200 to $700 depending on the severity of the offense, Fitzgerald said.

UI Department of Public Safety was the referral source for 88 percent of the cases Baker’s office investigated in 2008-09, according to the discipline report. DPS dealt with 697 alcohol-related incidents on campus in 2009, such as liquor law violations, drunkenness and drunken driving, and recorded 786 alcohol-related charges, according to a 2010 campus crime report to the Iowa state Board of Regents.

In contrast, Iowa State University, which has more students living on campus, had 827 incidents and 927 charges in 2009, according to the same report. At Penn State in 2008-09, campus police filed 2,350 arrests and citations, according to the PSU annual assessment.

Chuck Green, director of UI Department of Public Safety, said he does not know how UI compares with other schools for alcohol-related offenses, but he thinks the new 21-only could help bring down the number of infractions, he said.

“I believe it will have an impact on young people who don’t attend the university as well as those who do. If access is reduced, for UI affiliates and non-affiliates, it is reasonable to expect that consumption as well as alcohol-related infractions, overall, would be lower,” Green said.