Archive for November, 2010|Monthly archive page

Officials Remain Split On Genetically Engineered Salmon Debate

Officials say the FDA is lacking information.

By Nicole Karlis

While U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials have yet to make a decision on whether or not to approve the first genetically engineered animal to be sold in stores, national experts are wary if there is even enough information available for the decision to be made.

“They way the FDA is looking at this fish is like it’s a veterinarian drug and not food,” said Patty Lovera, assistant director of the non-profit organization Food & Water Watch. “The process has been really flawed, there are many weaknesses.”

AquaBounty Technologies, a Massachusetts-based biotechnology company that focuses on animal gene modifications, is seeking FDA certification for one of their products—AquAdvantage® Salmon. The fish, often referred to as “Frankenfish,” is a genetically engineered Atlantic Salmon that will grow almost half as fast in order to be in stores sooner. They are raised to keep their level of growth hormones active all the time, which essentially increases their growth rate, Lovera explained.

An economic strategy that some experts say is a high price to pay.

At the meeting in September, the FDA and AquaBounty Technologies presented the VMAC with information., however, Lovera says, it was all pretty vague, enough to lead the organization to send a letter to the FDA.

“We ask that the agency reject AquaBounty’s application for genetically engineered salmon. In addition, we demand that any hearings on the topic be held in a central location and that the public have adequate time to review the very real human health, animal health, and ecological risks this product would generate,” the Food & Water Watch wrote in a letter to the FDA.

“What we saw was a lot of summaries,” Lovera said. “We have pretty limited data.” She said the organization’s main concerns are of the fish escaping to the wild, allergens, and nutrition.

While the FDA is in the beginning stages of making a decision, if approved, the fish would be the first genetically engineered animal to be sold in stores for food.

The Food & Water Watch organization is not the only one that feels the available data is far too inadequate. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are also combatting the issue.

“Judging by the limited data that are available, it is clear that genetically engineered fish are not always healthy,” said Ryan Huling, the assistant campaign manager of college campuses for PETA, in an e-mail. “There is evidence that they are frequently deformed. While Aqua Bounty provided very limited, highly flawed data on the health of AquAdvantage GE salmon, the data do provide evidence that GE salmon are unhealthy animals, experiencing high rates of abnormalities and mortality, which are made worse by the induction of triploidy and aquaculture practices used for commercial production.”

According to the AquaAdavantage website, their fish experience “increased frequency of skeletal malformations, and increased prevalence of jaw erosions and multisystemic, focal inflammation.”

However, those who served on the VMAC panel during the September meetings said the fish is just fine to be served on consumers’ plates.

There’s no worry about allegies. There is no detrimental effects, no changes in the meat.” said James McKean, VMAC member, panelist, and a professor in Veterinarians Diagnostic & Production Animal Medicine at Iowa State University. “And from a human standpoint it did not seem to be an irregularity.”

McKean said some recommendations were made by the VMAC to the FDA in regards to environmental issues and the “scale-up” of the fish. “We did recommend there should be some additional work on the commercial basis,” he said.

But officials remain skeptical.

“Another concern is the nutrition value. People eat it [salmon] because it’s a healthy food.. there’s not great proof in there that’s all going to be the same,” Lovera said. “It’s very misleading for people.”

Thoughts from the Iowa City Pioneer Co-op:


Iowa City Bar Crawls

By Kristin Schiller

It is midnight in downtown Iowa City on a Friday and Sarah Flood is standing inside Union Bar wearing a light blue shirt with Brothers, Formosa, Union, Fieldhouse, and David’s Place listed on the back.  She is not promoting these bars; she is involved in a “bar crawl.”

Flood is one of hundreds of people who have participated in a bar crawl.  A bar crawl involves one or more people drinking in multiple bars in a single night, normally walking to each one between drinking.  Bar crawls are recognized because everyone involved wears the same shirt.

Birthday Bar Crawl T-shirt Photo by Kristin Schiller

Many people have bar crawls for their birthdays, but others can be designed for a variety of reasons.  Even though participants say bar crawls can be fun, they can create problems for downtown police.

An Outside View

Bar crawls are huge social events, according to Sarah Lafferty, former human resource assistant at the Sheraton Hotel downtown.

“Iowa City has more bars than you normally would see,” Lafferty said. “It’s fun to go out with a group of friends and to meet new people.”

Lafferty said she sees people coming and going from the Sheraton Hotel wearing bar crawl shirts every weekend.  While college students are depicted as the main group of people on bar crawls, adults have been known to participate as well.

“A lot of the time I see parents with their kids on the bar crawl,” Lafferty said.

Alumni bar crawls also come through Iowa City.  The biggest weekends for alumni are Homecoming and Parent’s Weekend, according to Lafferty.

Organizing Bar Crawls

A lot of work goes into organizing bar crawls.  Bars on the list need to be determined, money collected for the T-shirts, the T-shirts ordered and bar covers negotiated.

“It actually takes a lot of planning if you want a good successful bar crawl,” said Rachel Rose, who organized an April bar crawl with a friend.  “But if done correctly, they can be a lot of fun.  They give people the opportunity to possibly go to some bars they might not normally go to on a regular weekend,” she said.

Rose said it is important to plan ahead because mishaps happen.  Once, she had a T-shirt company back out at the last minute.

“We had to find someone else to print the shirts quickly, but we didn’t want to go to Shirt & Simple,” Rose said.

Bar Crawl T-shirts

While Rose decided to stay away from the popular T-shirt company Shirt & Simple, many people choose the easy-to-use online bar crawl service.  George Pfeiffer, president of Shirt & Simple Inc., said his company averages about five to 10 T-shirt orders per weekend.  Cost for bar crawl shirts varies depending on the color and style.

“Sometimes, when we’re busy, that number can grow as high as 20 different groups,” said Pfeiffer, whose shirt design Web site is paired up with Iowa City’s leading bar crawl organizing source,   The Web site runs in conjunction with Shirt & Simple, Inc., providing tips for organizing a bar crawl along with drink specials bars offer.

The Den in downtown Iowa City also prints designs for bar crawl shirts.  Rhett Depauw, the lead graphic designer at the Den, said March is a big season for bar crawls because it’s getting warmer and people are excited.

“Most of the time T-shirt designs are decided based on inside jokes or birthdays,” Depauw said.  “Every once in awhile you will see an intramural team come through here.”

Depauw said he does not always understand the things people put on their bar crawl shirts but he added that black and gold is the most popular color combo for obvious reasons.

“Most times people have a design and shirt theme ahead of time and will pick a product that has that color,” Pfeiffer said.  “Yet sometimes people will pick a color just because they like the look of it.”

“I don’t think the fear of standing out has ever really been a factor,” Depauw said.  “In fact, we just did an order of neon green shirts.”

Both Depauw and Pfeifffer noticed certain bars are more popular for bar crawls than others.  Six of 50 bars get most of bar crawl business, according to Pfeiffer.

“Summit is normally on all of them,” Depauw said, noting that the name of Summit is normally written backwards to disguise it on T-shirts.

Bar Crawl T-shirt disguises "Jakes" by spelling it backwards

“Although I don’t know why Jake’s and Summit don’t allow it,” said Depauw.  “You’d think they would want more advertisement.”

Bar Owners and Police Reactions

The owner of Summit and One Eyed Jake’s does not allow the names of his bars to be directly printed on bar crawl shirts.

Christa Walrath, a manager at Summit Restaurant & Bar, said the reason they don’t allow their name or logo on T-shirts is because they don’t want to associate themselves with bar crawls or excessive drinking.

Because bars offer drink specials to people wearing bar crawl shirts, excessive consumption of alcohol is the most common problem associated with this phenomenon.

Bar crawls can sometimes cause problems for police, often creating disturbances for business owners.

“Bar crawls themselves don’t really create problems because people tend to look after one another,” Iowa City Police Sgt. Troy Kelsay said.  “It’s the individuals who are irresponsible that attract attention.”

Kelsay said the most common charges against people who partake in bar crawls are Possession of Alcohol Under the Legal Age (PAULA), public intoxication, and unlawful use of identification.  People under 21 tend to think bar crawls are an easier method to get away with drinking underage, according to Kelsay.

“Whether police agree with the drinking age being 21, it is an easy line to follow,” Kelsay said.  “However, if you drink responsibly, chances are good you won’t have negative contact with police.”

While working at the Sheraton Hotel, Lafferty has seen many irresponsible bar crawls come through and create problems.

“It gets bad.  People get kicked out,” Lafferty said.  “One time we had a girl pee in the lobby.  She was standing up, skirt on and just started peeing.”

Flood said she believed people on bar crawls tend to watch out for one another.

“In my experience, if they’re on a bar crawl, they’re with other people and at least one person on the bar crawl is responsible who can watch over the others,” Flood said.

Lafferty said people should be careful and watch out for their friends.

“It’s all fun and games until someone has to go to the hospital.”

For more articles by Kristin Schiller, visit Fake ID Use in Iowa City: On the Rise?, Fake ID Q&A with UI Student, or go back to the package’s main page.

Students Keeping Students Safe

By: Wiley Schatz

Since the current executive branch of the University of Iowa Student Government (UISG) has been in place, they have been extremely busy putting plans in place in order to improve student life. In particular they have made efforts in keeping the IMU open for 24 hours, increasing student awareness of Student Government activities, and improving “Welcome Week” for incoming freshman.  One of the primary issues for UISG has been improving general safety awareness among students.  Among the ways that Student Government is improving student safety is by working with Cambus to create a new bus route that will go to the eastside of downtown.

“With the 21 ordinance here,” says President of University of Iowa Student Government John Rigby, “there are a lot of students on the weekend walking downtown from neighborhood to neighborhood just looking for something to do.  We think that a new route on the eastside could be useful to some of them and keep them safe.”

If the plans for a new route do happen, it wouldn’t be the first time that Cambus provided a route of that kind.

“There was an eastside loop that got started last year,” says Vice President of University of Iowa Student Government Erica Hayes, “the intention of that route was to go to sorority houses and apartment buildings.  I think what will be happening in the near future is an adaptation of that route that will fill the needs of some students.”

The main reason why last year’s route didn’t last, was because the economics just didn’t add up.

“It definitely wasn’t cost effective for us,” says Rigby, “It cost us about $14,000 and through the whole year only about 350 people actually used it.  But with the 21 ordinance maybe it will be more useful to people.”

Not So Fast?

According to officials at  Cambus though, a new eastside route may not be likely in the near future.

“It just doesn’t seem necessary for anyone involved at this point,” says Cambus Manager McClatchey, ”There isn’t much demand from students, if we had significant use of our old late-night eastside route, we might be more open to what Student Government has been proposing.”

The ethics of having a bus running downtown on weekend nights is also something Cambus finds questionable.

Iowa Cambus

Iowa Cambus, Photo from:

“The route originally served more than just the neighborhoods,” says McClatchey, “it wasn’t just a ‘drunk bus’, which is what this route would essentially be.  It was for safety for students going from to and from campus; I am not sure it’s appropriate for Cambus to get involved in that”

Maybe the biggest reason of all that that there are no plans for a new eastern neighborhoods route is that it just doesn’t fit with why they would need a new route.

“Considering we use to have a similar route to what they want now and nobody has asked us about it since we canceled it, we don’t feel there is a strong need for a new route,” Says McClatchey, “a bus just doesn’t make a lot of sense for that situation where people are more scattered and aren’t necessarily in large groups.  We’ve told Student Government that a new cab service might make more sense for people that just want to go travel in small packs and go downtown.”

While Cambus might not be jumping at the idea of a new downtown route on weekends, that doesn’t mean they aren’t working on new ways to help students and keep them safe.  Recently all Iowa City bus services launched a new service called “Bus on the Go” or “BONGO.”

“Essentially what it is is a real time passenger information system,” says McClatchey, “The I.T. department had a poll about what students would like them to work on and the number one answer was that people want bus information.”

With BONGO, students can use their smart phone and locate where all the busses currently are and how long it will take them to get to whichever stop they want.  This way students no longer have to wait at a given stop and hope that the bus will be on time and in turn plan their day much more easily.

“We have been working on BONGO for the last six moths,” says McClatchey, “its something that not only helps the riders, but also help us here in the office.  Before when our dispatchers needed to know where a bust was in order keep things on track they would have to radio in and visualize in their head the positions of all the busses in relation to each other, now they can just see exactly where they are.  It also gives us information that can help us adjust routes in the future.”

Outside of BONGO Cambus is also giving all busses Wi-Fi, replacing older busses, and extending the time they go to Coralville.

Other Plans in the Works

Though east side apartments may not be getting any visits from Cambus anytime soon, Student Government is still working on other ways to keep students safe“Something else that could contribute to greater student safety.

“One of the things were are working on is something called a ‘community walk’,” says Rigby, “it would involved everyone in Student Government and maybe a few volunteer students to walk around the east side on a Thursday or Friday night and look for potential hazards such as a street lamp being out.  Things that the city council might not give much attention.  We could point these things out to them and hopefully get them fixed faster.”

Student safety is a priority to the Student Government at The University of Iowa, after all they are students themselves.  Students will know next semester weather their plans have gone into place.

Megan Considine Daily Routine

The Iowa basketball team plays nearly 30 regular-season games this season, travels to over ten states and even out of the country once.

But when the Hawkeyes aren’t suiting up for a game, the team stays busy during the week.

This is Iowa junior, Megan Considine’s daily routine:

Junior Megan Considine in Iowa's 68-62 victory over Kansas State on Dec. 5 inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. (photo by: Jessie Smith)

7:10AM– Wake up, throw on sweats, brush teeth, wash face
7:30- Leave for Carver-Hawkeye Arena
7:45- Get treatment on my sore muscles and blisters
8:15 -Start shooting around before practice starts
8:30 – Practice officially begins:

  • 10 minute warm up with strength coach: Stretches (moving and on the ground), skips, high knees, shuffles and starts

8:40 – Begin practice drills:

  • 45 minutes of defensive drills: boxing out, two on two and close outs

9:30 – Shoot 15 free throws with a partner, record makes
9:40 – Offensive drills:

  • Circle shots, drive and pitches, jump shots and transition shots

10:00- Work on half-court offense and defense:

  • Practice against grey squad
  • Run through scout plays if  game coming up

10:45- Practice ends, team always meets in the middle to huddle and discuss any important announcements

11:00- Lifting (routines very):

  • Dumbbell bench, front squats, pull-ups, calf raises, hang cleans, dumbbell snatch

11:30 – Shower very fast and throw on some sweats

11:45 – Training table (lunch) at Carver, meals are different each day and are catered by Hyvee 12:10PM – Head to Pappajohn Business Building for classes

4:00 – Head home to relax, check Facebook and watch either E! news or Sportscenter

6:00 – Make dinner and then go somewhere to study, either the IMU or the library

9:00 – Return home and relax a bit before bed

10-10:30 – Go to bed

Q: What is your best memory from the season so far?

“Without a doubt our trip to Cancun over Thanksgiving break. It’s weird not spending that time with my family and with my team instead, but being in the gorgeous weather helps make up for that.

We also came away with two wins out there and I also celebrated my 21st birthday, so it was a pretty amazing trip for a lot of reasons. I’ll never forget it, that’s for sure.”

Athlete’s in Small Sports Still Feeling the Pressure

The same uniform, different styles.

The same city, different locations.

The same mentality, different goals.

The University of Iowa features 22 athletic teams, all of whom wear black and gold. But aside from the visual resemblances shared, each program proves unlike the other.

Of the 22 Hawkeye sports teams, some are highly publicized and regularly receive national attention, but a majority of the Iowa’s smaller sport teams receive limited media attention in a given year.

Between the scarce coverage and minimal hype surrounding Iowa’s less prominent programs still lies the pressures and responsibilities that come with being a Division-I student-athlete.

Dispersed Pressures

No matter the sport, a college athlete’s head coach becomes their new authority figure on campus.

But unlike athletes in larger sports, like University of Illinois basketball player, Lana Rukavina, who said the pressure to perform well stems directly from her coaches,  UI sophomore volleyball player, Allison Straumann said the pressures she feels comes from multiple outlets.

“When you work for something most of your life, such as trying to get a scholarship or making a certain team, a lot of the time the push comes from people who you are closest to, mostly just because you don’t want to let them down,” Straumann said. Coaches and teammates apply pressure just because you want to succeed to make the end result for not only you, but for them better as well.”

Like Straumann, UI field-hockey player and senior, Sarah Pergine, agreed the pressure to perform at a high level branches from multiple people, but the Collegeville, Penn., native also added that  for her, there’s another non-human source that produces an even stronger push.

“Since our program has a long-standing tradition of being a good team, the demand for a win is always there,” Pergine said. “We have winning all-time records against every team in the nation except for three teams so the pride that has been instilled in our program is extremely important to maintain.”

photo credit: Sarah Pergine

Iowa field-hockey player, Sarah Pergine, said she knew Iowa would be the last high level team she would ever compete for. (photo contributed by Sarah Pergine)

Eastern Illinois volleyball player and senior, Erin Hake, said a unique situation in her program this season is the reason she felt this year’s pressures were unlike those she’s felt in previous seasons.

“Our team especially feels pressure from our coaches now just because they both recently came from Penn State, where they won both the women’s and men’s NCAA national championships,” Hake said. “Our assistant coach played professionally and “losing” isn’t necessarily in either of their vocabularies.”

Classroom Responsibilities

Like Rukavina, and a majority of the other names listed on roster’s of larger sports teams, is on a full scholarship to play basketball at Illinois.

Straumann, Pergine and Hake are also on full athletic scholarships to their universities.

But unlike Rukavina, who said since basketball is her top priority, academics are rarely a source of pressure — Straumann, Pergine and Hake felt the opposite.

Hake, a Marion, Iowa, native, said her Midwest location and the lack of professional opportunities in volleyball, are the reasons her academics have always been her top concern at EIU.

“I have never considered playing professionally and have always put academics before volleyball,” Hake said. “…Volleyball on the West coast as a whole, is a lot more competitive and more girls continue on from conferences like the Pac-10, where you can play the sport year-round.”

Field-hockey does not offer a professional future after college, either. Pergine said there are national field-hockey teams, but that she has never considered pursuing the sport after graduation.

Pergine said coming to Iowa and knowing the Hawkeye roster would be the last lineup card her name would ever appear on, has positively impacted her career in Iowa City.

“Since we do not have an opportunity to be a professional in my sport, it almost makes us as athletes cherish our time and collegiate athletic career more,” Pergine said. “Because for the majority of us, these are the last few years we can ever compete at a high level.”

Christina Johnson, Ph.D., and lecturer in health and human physiology, with an emphasis in sports psychology, said an student-athlete’s attitude towards their sport can greatly impact their academics.

“I think in terms of life outcomes, the number of student-athletes who will go on to play their sport professionally is really so small,” Johnson said. “The percentages are not great at all and definitely in women sports, professional basketball is about only option a female athlete would have.

“So to put the emphasis on that ‘I’m an athlete, not a student’ can shift the focus away from the classroom stuff, and by doing that, they might start to struggle in their classroom lives.”

Out of Uniform

No, there are not usually reporters lining press row leading up to the start of a regular season volleyball game for Straumann or Hake, nor do the bleachers at Iowa field-hockey games typically contain more than a few hundred fans.

Eastern Illinois volleyball player, Erin Hake, said because the team's schedule is so busy, she rarely visits her home in Marion, Iowa, during the school year. (photo contributed by Erin Hake)

But this lack of outsider attention given to smaller sport teams does not make maintaining the integrity or image’s of these programs any less important.

Pergine and Straumann both noted their team’s no alcohol rule or “dry policy.”

Straumann said this rule doesn’t always seem necessary because the team’s busy schedule doesn’t make the partying habits of a typical college student “physically possible.”

“Basically from July to until the end of November we aren’t allowed to drink or go downtown,” Straumann said. “The reason for this is so that as athlete, we set a good image for other people that we are completely dedicated to our sport, and to our teammates, that 100 percent of our efforts and energy are being given to our sport.”

Like Rukavina, Hake said she and her teammates are expected to carry themselves in a deliberate manner when out in public.

Hake said this rule is strictly enforced on her team, and that she had the misfortune of “learning the hard way,” her first year at EIU.

“Our program strongly encourages athletes to never wear other universities clothing on campus or pretty much anywhere if it’s not EIU gear,” Hake said. “If we got caught, our coach would  make us run five suicides for every letter of that university. I did this my freshman year when I wore a Wisconsin sweatshirt —I learned my lesson.”

Party time in Iowa City


Clinton St. at night in downtown Iowa City. ~Photo by Robbie Lehman

A complex web of issues has evolved from the UI’s recent No. 9 party school ranking and changes to downtown bar laws.

By Robbie Lehman

Sitting at a booth in Donnelly’s Pub located in the downtown Iowa City pedestrian mall, Jordan Loperena has finished his chicken wings and pauses to think of an answer to the question: Why does the University of Iowa have a reputation as a “party school?”

Experts weigh in with opinions

Over the years, the University of Iowa has developed a status as one of the best learning institutions in the country. At the same time, however, the school that was established in 1847 has also come to be known as one of the top places for college students to party.

More specifically, the ninth best.

On August 2, the Princeton Review ranked the UI as the No. 9 Top American Party School for the 2010-11 school year.

This ranking has many students, faculty and administrators at the UI, not to mention other Iowa City residents and even Iowans around the state, wondering what exactly this ranking means.

UI President Sally Mason has taken a great concern in wanting to decrease this stereotype of her institution.

“Students don’t need to be tainted with a reputation…” Mason said in an interview with The Daily Iowan student newspaper in October. “When they go out on the job market, I don’t want students to have to answer questions, [like] “So what’s it really like being at a party school? And what was your participation in that party school?” That really shouldn’t be the issue.”

Should students be worried about the University of Iowa “tainting” their resume when they are seeking employment after graduation? Angi McKie, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the Pomerantz Career Center, says no.

“Sure, we share the concern,” McKie said. “We don’t want employers certainly to have that reputation when they think of the University of Iowa. We want them to think of other things.”

The Pomerantz Career Center on the UI campus is a service that is dedicated to helping Hawkeye students with forming and conducting successful job and internship strategies. Its staff performs around 8,000 advising appointments per year, as well as arranging nearly 4,500 interviews for students.

“At this point in our outreach efforts with our employers, we have not had any employers bring up the fact the Iowa is ranked where it was on the Princeton survey,” McKie said. “It’s not to say that they don’t think about it or wonder, but it has not been verbalized to us by any employers at this point.

“Students should still take their behaviors carefully under consideration.”

McKie and her co-workers meet regularly with employers looking to tap into the UI’s market of job-seekers.

“When we have our staff meeting with employers, maybe it just didn’t come up in the context of the conversation, hard to say,” McKie said. “Oftentimes they’re there talking about our services and what we could offer to them as they try to work through their recruitment plans and their campus recruiting strategy.”

It’s all about the alcohol

There is no doubt that alcohol is at the center of the party school reputation, no matter what institution is being discussed. The UI Student Government has taken on the responsibility of cleaning up the “party school” image, said its President, senior John Rigby.

“I know some people are kind of discouraged by seeing that party ranking because they think it kind of taints your college experience,” Rigby said. “That’s not always the case. That’s unfortunate because there’s a small margin of students that do go to the University of Iowa just to experience the social aspect of it.”

Rigby, 21, is a native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He is fully aware that the UI and Iowa City have specific identities. He and his UISG staff frequently meet with UI President Sally Mason and her staff to discuss campus initiatives and issues, including underage drinking and non-alcoholic social activities for UI students. Rigby said that the party school ranking was a focal point of talks in August, just as the 21-vote has largely been throughout the fall semester.

There certainly is a connection between the issues, Rigby said.

After the November 2 vote approved the 21-only law for the next two years, Rigby noticed the extremely negative response by his student peers. This was not only from speaking with students but also through social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

There were even threats of transfer, he said. This reaction has sparked him to work even harder at serving his students and their needs at the UI and in the Iowa City community.

“I think it’s just making sure that we have that student energy that’s come in the aftermath of this but directing it towards positive solutions or alternatives,” Rigby said. “We need to talk with the city and the administration, and think of how we can make downtown attractive to the underage crowd.”

How far does the reputation reach?

Those graduating from the UI and the stigma placed on them is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the high school seniors around the country who are searching for a university to attend. Many questions arise from this issue: Are high school students aware that Iowa is labeled a “party school?” Is it a positive or negative when attracting new students?

Loperena, 22, is a native of Lake Zurich, Illinois. He said he paid no attention whatsoever of college party rankings when searching for a school to attend.

“It’s something that I didn’t necessarily need or require, but was something kind of cool,” Loperena said about a college with a thriving party scene. “[Iowa] seemed like a pretty Big Ten campus, not that far from home, Big Ten athletics and stuff like that. That’s really what got me excited to come to Iowa. [The party atmosphere] had zero effect or weight on my decision.”

Rigby agreed that educating new students on alcohol awareness was a top priority with his staff and UI officials.

“When you’re a first year student, you’re not aware. You come from high school where some students drink in high school and some students don’t. Here, especially when you’re a first year student, it seems like it’s a constant temptation that you have to meet,” Rigby said.

“I think it’s our responsibility to encourage safe drinking but also to encourage first year students to fourth year students that there are other things to do, whether it’s other services or other programs at the IMU or downtown.”

A 2010 graduate, Loperena has sat through his fair share of interviews before landing a job this fall. The topic of the UI’s reputation as a party school never came up, not once, he said.

Is there hope for the future?

Loperena doesn’t deny that he spent a fair portion of his college career in downtown Iowa City. He has many memories of socializing with friends at bars and other parties. It’s hard for him to imagine how his UI experience would be different if he was an incoming freshman this year , right in the middle of this image crisis.

He stated that social scene at the UI and downtown Iowa City hasn’t been the same since the 21-only law passed. With the party school ranking on UI officials’ minds now too, many students feel like the fun is being sucked out of their college experience as the UI and Iowa City plan initiatives toward decreasing their party reputations.

Will the bond between Iowa students and UI and City officials ever be repaired? Loperena unfortunately does not have an answer to this question.

Background and timeline of events

The Old Capitol at the center of the UI campus is an Iowa City landmark. ~Photo by Robbie Lehman


By Robbie Lehman

The University of Iowa and Hawkeye football have been intertwined with Iowa City culture for decades. There is a strong relationship between the three areas, one that residents and students alike want to keep thriving in the future.

In August, the Princeton Review named the University of Iowa as the No. 9 Top American Party School for the 2010-11 school year. Iowa City is known around the state of Iowa and even outside of the state for its downtown atmosphere. The bar scene is that of a typical college town, which is to say vibrant.

This party school ranking occurred even after the Iowa City City Council passed a 21-only law in April that prohibited those under the legal drinking age to enter bars after 10 p.m. The law was enacted on June 1. Up until that point, several Iowa City bars were open to those 19 and above.

The city was 52-percent in favor of approving the 21-only law for the next two years, a public vote on November 2 confirmed.

University of Iowa officials were naturally aware and involved in these issues. President Sally Mason and Athletics Director Gary Barta both publicly state their hope that the close relationship between the UI and Iowa City community will continue to have a bright future.

However, recently, the atmosphere revolving around Hawkeye football has shone a negative light on both the university and city. Specifically, a problem has arisen with alcohol and the culture of tailgating—and the reckless behavior of those who take it too far when mixing the two.

Alcohol, and alcohol safety, is at the forefront of all these issues, but it is more complex than that alone. Image, status and reputation are also key factors with these subjects. It is vitally important to the UI, Iowa City and Hawkeye football to each uphold a positive image during this time of drama.

“I definitely think our community has work to do in that sense,” UI Student Government President John Rigby in an exclusive interview. “I think that’s where you can draw the connection. Looking at tailgating and the downtown scene and just looking at the off-campus party scene, socializing with alcohol, that’s been a part of college culture forever.

“But I have seen it taken to levels that can be dangerous sometimes. Obviously we have work to do, but it’s not just going to be students who have to control it,” Rigby said. “It has to be a unified effort on behalf of students, and administrative people and also public safety officers too. But I definitely think there’s a relationship there.”

This multimedia package of articles, photos, slideshows and videos seeks to provide the necessary background information, as well as give future insight, on the controversy surrounding these multifaceted and related topics. A timeline of important dates is included to add perspective.


April 6: Iowa City City Council approves a 21-only law by a 6-1 vote.

May 11: 3,300 opponents of the 21-law sign a petition that puts the issue to another vote on the November 2 ballot.

June 1: Those under 21 can no longer occupy bars or drinking establishments after 10 p.m.

August 2: Princeton Review ranks the University of Iowa as the No. 9 Top American Party School for 2010-11 school year.

August 16: UI officials publicize changes in tailgating policy for Hawkeye football home games in 2010.

September 9: Official UI news release making secondary changes to the original policy.

November 2: City votes to uphold the 21-ordinance by a 52/48 percent margin.


Once permitted, green technology could cut costs for wastewater upgrades

Lou Licht wants a permit to use his earth-cleaning poplars in Iowa. But the state DNR wants more data first. - Photo by Jim Malewitz

Green methods could help solve wastewater problems in small Iowa towns.


Iowa has more than 700 unsewered communities that discharge 1.2 billion gallons of poorly treated sewage in to the state’s waters, according to two separate studies by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources cited in a 2005 Iowa Policy Project report. And upgrading those systems to meet new federal standards would cost millions of dollars.

But help may be on the way for those cash-strapped towns, according to Iowa researchers, if the state allows them to give it.

Lou Licht, a native of Lowden and owner of the North Liberty-based firm Ecolotree, has developed a method to filter wastewater using poplar trees that he touts as a cleaner, cheaper form of wastewater treatment. And University of Iowa professors Gene Parkin and Craig Just are researching a hybrid natural and mechanical method of water treatment on a micro wetlands site set up on the grounds of a water treatment plant in south Iowa City.

Licht’s technology takes up more land, but burns less energy than its hybrid counterpart, said Parkin.

Another key difference: while Parkin will test his method for two or three years before towns will use it, Licht said his research is “good to go.”

“And when it’s good to go, what’s the deal?” he asked while sitting on the deck of his North Liberty home.

DNR reluctance

While Licht has been permitted to complete wastewater projects in handfuls of states, Iowa is not one of them.

Satya Chenuptai, who heads the wastewater section of the state’s Department of Natural Resources said the department can’t permit work like Licht’s without seeing data showing that it works in Iowa’s unique set of environmental conditions – frozen ground in the winter and waste that is filled with ammonia.

Anne Alexander, a post-doc in environmental engineering at the University of Iowa, who interned with Ecolotree, said Licht’s system should treat ammonia and work in winter as soil temperature a few feet below ground stays near 54 degrees year round.

The system treats less water in winter as poplars stop slurping and transpiring, but microbes continue to work below surface, she said.

“It doesn’t need to be taken up into the tree for the system to function.”

But Richard Leopold, director of Iowa’s DNR until last August, said in an email he can understand Chenuptai’s reservations.

“The department can’t take risks on unproven technology,” he said, though not specifically addressing Licht’s research.

“I am all for “alternative” treatment technologies, and worked hard [at] the Iowa DNR to streamline permitting of such processes. The DNR can’t be in a place that they permit a treatment, and it doesn’t work.”

Parkin agreed more “hard, robust data” is important, but said, “we’re pretty confident Lou’s system and this mini-wetlands system will work.”

Licht said his projects in Wisconsin, Illinois and other states with Iowa-like conditions speak for themselves and that phyto “works across state and national boundaries.”

Alexander said the DNR’s low budget likely stokes its fear of risk.

Chenuptai would agree. He said that budget cuts have taken a toll at the DNR. Until recently, the department employed someone employed someone who devoted all hi time to researching innovation in wastewater treatment, he said.

Just recently, the state cut the position.

This article is part of a series about ecological innovation in Iowa. Read more:

With poplar trees, a one-time Lowden farmhand makes some green

Lou Licht shows off a few of the pollution-zapping poplars that grow on his North Liberty land. - Photo by Jim Malewitz

No longer a polluter, Lou Licht aims to clean up Iowa using poplar trees.


NORTH LIBERTY – Lou Licht was once a polluter – aiding and abetting companies that spewed toxins into the air and water.

Today he could hardly be greener.

With a quick-growing, toxic-zapping tree and a patented technique, Licht cleans up the types of messes he once helped create, and he hopes to apply his work in Iowa.

“Who knew? I mean, it fell out of the sky,” Licht says, leaning back in his deck chair, coffee in hand, as the sun peaks through the thick forest of spindling trees in his yeard that shield much of his lake from view.

Topped with thin patches of still green leaves, those trees dot the landscape of the few acres in North Liberty, Iowa that Licht calls home. Green-brown, expansive and accented with birds chirping on this chilly morning in October, it’s the type of place you might expect someone who studies trees to live.

A crop of Licht's poplar trees. - photo by Jim Malewitz

Trees are Licht’s livelihood. He plants thousands each year in places like Chicago, Atlanta and St. Louis, and gets thousands of dollars to do it.

But Licht isn’t the type of in-your-face ecologist that lambastes mankind for its rape of Mother Earth. He’s a businessman who speaks of incentives and convergence. Off the top of his head, Licht could break down his revenue in dollars per tree he plants.

But why would the Air Force, or companies like Tyco or Republic Waste – the second largest disposer of garbage nationally – want Licht’s trees? Why do scientists from Australia or Italy seek advice from the guy who graduated from high school in a class of just 17 and nearly enrolled in flight attendant school (“Even wrote the check. We called it back,” he says.).

Because they save money. Lot’s of it. They help clean polluted land, air and water, and they can reduce runoff from heavy rains that cause flooding in a river-filled state like Iowa. And they treat sewage.

“In the case of Iowa, where we are surrounded by farmland, the right 15-20 acres can do all the tertiary treatment for a town of 1,000 people,” says Licht, dressed in the gray pants, a beige long-sleeved button down shirt and a black zip-up vest that a farmer might wear when he’s not tilling his field. 

The rest of Licht could help him pass for a farmer too – his round face and broad nose framed by thin-rimmed glasses, a white-gray head of hair and a body that shows signs of a slowing metabolism but an active lifestyle.

Licht’s work is “awesome,” says Kenneth Yongabi, coordinator of Phytobiotechnology Research Foundation in Cameroon. “I have no doubt about the formidable treasure this technology has for the future.”

The trees work through a process called phytoremediation that involves tree roots, swales and surrounding microbes, and they save companies money, lot’s of it, he and his environmental colleagues say.

Continue reading

The Current State Of Video Games

Where are video games at right now? Image courtesy of Tec-Knowledgy.

Since their humble beginnings in games like “Pong” and “Pac-Man”, video games have evolved a great deal.  What was once seen as the hobby of teenage shut-ins has now transformed into a multibillion dollar industry.  Even people who don’t play games understand what a Wii is.

“I think video games are to this generation what rock n’ roll music was to kids in the 60’s,” said Joe Baughman.  Baughman is a GameStop employee in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“The coolest things in pop culture are happening in games right now,” Baughman said.

Baughman has been playing games since the age of five.  The first game he ever encountered was “Super Mario Bros.”  The game’s bizarre world of warp pipes and magical mushrooms drew him in.

“It was just unlike anything I’d ever seen before.  It was crazy actually.  I loved it because it was so different and fun,” Baughman said.

Are video games toys?

Mario is fun partly because of how easy it is to understand.  The core concept of the game is to run and jump through levels until you reach the end.  Anyone can pick up a controller and “get” Mario.  However, the game’s simplistic nature has also allowed it to be perceived as something for children.

This is an image the video game industry has been reluctant to shred.  Even today, many older consumers consider video games to be toys.

“All I know is that my kids like them,” said Deb Gardener.  Mrs. Gardener is the mother of two teenage boys.  Both of them are obsessed with video games.

“I’m a little bit concerned.  It seems like the older my sons get, the more violent the games are becoming.  All they do is shoot things.  I know the games aren’t real, but isn’t there something healthier they could be doing?” Gardener said.

Gardener has never played a video game, saying that she doesn’t understand them.  When asked if she would ever be interested in learning more about video games, she politely declined.

“There are too many buttons on the things.  Besides, there aren’t really games made for me anyway.  I’m not that into violence and I’m too old to play with toys,” Gardener said.

Living in a boy’s world

Judy Eichler thinks that games can give her something that other forms of entertainment are not able to.  Eichler is a senior at the University of Northern Iowa and hopes to help design games someday.  She believes that being able to make choices is the most engaging characteristic about video games.  Although Eichler is passionate about games, she is saddened by the amount of sexism that is present in them.

“I really didn’t start getting interested in video games until they actually let you play as a girl.  Believe it or not, that wasn’t for quite awhile,” Eichler said.

Eichler’s favorite genre of game is the role-playing genre.  She says she enjoys them the most for their detail and how they involve the player in the world.

“These games give me a choice, unlike a lot of other games.  Maybe I don’t want to play as the scantily clad, male idea of a female soldier.  Maybe I want to play as a tough-as-nails chick who doesn’t take crap from anybody,” Eichler said.

Role-playing games have made the farthest strides in making men and women equal in the video game world.  Games like “Mass Effect” and “Dragon Age” not only let the player choose a female avatar, they also allow the player to fall in love with and develop a relationship with various men in the game.

“In nearly every other game I have to look at love and sex from a guy’s perspective,” Eichler said.  “How are video games supposed to get the respect they deserve if they can’t get rid of this sexist garbage?”

Eichler manages a female only online community where girl gamers can interact and play games together.  The group is called “Babes and Broadswords” and is currently sitting at 135 members.

“A lot of my girls don’t tell guys that they play video games, especially on the internet.  They act dumb about it.  Many of them say that they’ll just get harassed online or hit on by creepy jerks.  Judging by what I’ve seen, they’re absolutely right,” Eichler said.

Games are growing up

Bryer Day is of the mindset that video games are in a transitional period.  He is a contributing columnist to  He thinks games are slowly growing out of an adolescent period and advancing into something greater.

“We saw the same thing with comic books and Dungeons and Dragons.  People ridicule new forms of entertainment at first and then they eventually come to accept it,” Day said.

Day makes parallels between video games and other forms of entertainment because he believes that we can learn where video games are headed if we look to the past.

“If you read about the history of comic books you’ll find that they were banned in a lot of schools.  Now, they’re teaching courses about them in college.  Movies are being made about super heroes like they’re great icons of our day.  The same thing will happen with video games,” Day said.

If games are ever going to get that chance, then they will need the freedom of expression.  That could be taken away if a current Supreme Court case passes.  The case would allow the government to regulate and decide what video game content is appropriate.

“This case is important for two reasons.  The first is that the decision of the Court could endanger the creativity of game developers.  Every video game publisher would want to play-it-safe.  They would all be afraid of being blacklisted by the government.  The second reason is that it would send a message.  If games are deemed protected by the first amendment, it would mean they would be considered equal to other art forms.  That would be empowering not only to games, but to gamers themselves,” Day said.