University of Iowa

University of Iowa, Meet Mom

The University of Iowa has instituted a policy that they will evict students from the dorms if they are arrested with a high blood alcohol level. It doesn’t matter if the drinking happened in the dorms, or if the person drinking was doing so legally.

When I was an undergraduate, starting in 1976 people had beer and booze in their dorm rooms, and the dorms had sanctioned events that served alcohol every weekend. You could go to the Iowa Memorial Union and have beers at the Wheel Room. The implicit social contract was this: you show up for class and do the work, and what you did outside class was your business.

Now, under President Sally Mason, the Univeristy has made the private behavior of students an issue relevant to their education. The rationale for this is, on its surface, admirable: it’s a health and safety issue. But it means to me that students at the University — even 35-year-old graduate students — are no longer treated as adults. They are subject to sanctions for things that didn’t occur on campus, and that don’t pertain to their academic performance.

I would never assert that it’s a good idea for people to get pie-eyed drunk and behave in ways that attract the attention of the police. For some this is a symptom of alcoholism, which is a disease. For others it just represents a lack of good judgement. In either case, I think someone who gets arrested with a BAC of .2 has enough problems without worrying about being made homeless by the University.

Beyond the specifics of this policy, I object to the paternalism (or maternalism). There’s a whole panoply of ways the University now regulates the behavior of adult students. This marks a return to the In Loco Parentis philosophy that was in place until the 1960s. It didn’t work then and it’s not going to change behavior now. It establishes consequences for actions above and beyond the sanctions already in place in the legal code. And it means, effectively, that students no longer have private lives.

2 replies on “University of Iowa, Meet Mom”

As a resident of Iowa City, I can attest to the seriousness of the problem of binge drinking at the University of Iowa. There was a recent incident where a sophomore was so drunk he passed out in an alley while urinating and was discovered the next morning unconscious with his frostbitten penis sticking out of his pants (it required amputation). This is no joke… the students get so hammered that they endanger themselves and others. Various efforts have been made to curb this trend including a recently passed 21-and-over ordinance for the numerous local bars. It’s not a privacy issue, it’s an issue of public safety. Come out here on a game day and you’ll see it for yourself.

I didn’t say binge drinking wasn’t a problem, but it’s an adult problem with adult consequences, and I don’t think the University should be interfering in the lives of adult students in that way, as long as their behavior isn’t on campus.

Threatening to kick people out of the dorms because they got drunk downtown won’t A) stop them from getting drunk downtown or B) keep them from freezing off their dicks. Treating them like adults may in some small way encourage them to behave like adults.

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