Sally Mason: Univ. of Iowa Committed to Continuing Progress on Alcohol Reduction

By Diane Heldt, Reporter

University of Iowa President Sally Mason addresses the Legislature about budget cuts, one of the results of which has led to the University loosing faculty members to other schools, Wednesday February 9, 2011 in Des Moines. (Becky Malewitz/SourceMedia Group News)

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By Aaron Hepker

AMES, Iowa - AMES -- University of Iowa President Sally Mason reassured the state Board of Regents in Ames Thursday that university leaders are making progress on high-risk drinking among students, despite a recent national publication that named the UI as the nation's top "party school."

Mason made the comments during a portion of the regents meeting reserved for updates from the university presidents. She said in light of The Princeton Review ranking this week listing the UI as the top party school, she thought it was important to make a few comments about the university's alcohol reduction efforts and progress on that front.

The university has implemented multiple strategies and is working in collaboration with many community partners on the issue, Mason said. There's a common perception that nothing can be done to change high-risk drinking on college campuses, Mason said, but UI officials are learning that's not true.

The UI efforts have shown measurable effect in reducing the harm to UI students because of alcohol use, she said. It's important because it's "fundamentally an issue of health and safety among our students," Mason said.

The proportion of UI students engaging in high-risk drinking in the two weeks before the National College Health Assessment Survey is down 17 percent since 2009 and is much closer to the national figure now, and the average number of drinks consumed per occasion is down 20 percent since 2009, she said.

"In 2009, we were embarrassingly high, with more than 70 percent of the students engaging in high-risk binge drinking in the two weeks preceding the survey," Mason said. "Now, it's about 59 percent. That's not a great number, but a number much closer to the national mean."

Also since 2009, the proportion of students who report drinking in the 30 days prior to the survey is down about 12 percent. Other data shows decreases in alcohol-related crime and alcohol-related visits to the ER, she said.

"We have confidence those are meaningful numbers," she said. "It is indeed progress. We are committed to continuing that progress."

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