Archive for the ‘Lehman, Robbie’ Category

Introduction to the UI and Iowa City image crisis

The Iowa City pedestrian mall, a staple of the local social scene for students and residents. It is host to numerous shops, restaurants and bars. ~ Photo by Robbie Lehman.

Image is everything

By Robbie Lehman

The identity of a city is often defined by the character of its citizens. People make a town what it is; without people, a town would be nothing but a geographic location.

People come together to build cities and towns all over the world. They construct them physically, yes, but also culturally, socially, and symbolically as well.

Iowa City is home to the University of Iowa, naturally branding it with the reputation as a “college town.” But that reputation has ingrained itself into the local culture more than any natives could have imagined.

Recently, the people that have made Iowa City what it is have had to deal with drama in which they caused. Controversy in three relating areas have caused somewhat of a community crisis. New bar entry laws, problems during football tailgating and a top ten party school ranking are behind the uproar. This multimedia package aims to set the scene of these recent events, as well as give perspective on the future relationship between Iowa City and the University of Iowa.

Background and timeline of events

Party time in Iowa City

Tailgating gone wild

Photo/audio slideshow – Hawkeye football tailgating

Video interview with John Rigby, UISG President

For further information on this subject, check out the package on the UI’s recent Alcohol Harm Reduction Plan put together by the Daily Iowan, the independent student newspaper for the University of Iowa. Find it here.


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.


Tailgating gone wild in Iowa City



Kinnick Stadium parking lot. ~Photo by Robbie Lehman

University and City officials look to rebuild what has become a rocky relationship with Hawkeye football fans.

By Robbie Lehman

Making changes

On August 16, the University of Iowa, working alongside Iowa City Police, launched the “Think Before You Drink” campaign, a “new initiative aimed at making the game-day experience exciting and safe for all fans,” which outlined several new rule changes in regards to tailgating.

However, university officials tweaked the original policy changes after receiving negative feedback from fans following the first home game.

The most prominent problems with tailgating involve alcohol—underage students consuming it, violent behavior from fans and people driving under the influence after games.

“Our fans are the nation’s best—they are enthusiastic and respectful of others,” Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said in the August 16 news release. “Many of our fans consume alcohol on game days, and they do so responsibly. However, a small minority drink too much and cause problems for themselves and others. To those folks, we say, ‘Please think before you drink. Don’t put a black eye on the black and gold.’”

University Spokesman Tom Moore said President Mason personally received at least 50 emails from upset students, fans and Iowa City residents in response to the weekend of September 4, in which Iowa opened the 2010 season against Eastern Illinois with a 37-7 win.

A total of 146 citations were handed out by Iowa City Police that day.

Due to backlash, university officials sent a September 9 news release that altered the tailgating policy for the second time. Postgame alcohol consumption was increased to two hours in university areas, while all postgame tailgating activities must cease three hours after game’s end.

Reasons behind the changes

Officials said the initial review of tailgating and the game day atmosphere really began after the 2009 football season, which was scattered with numerous incidents involving alcohol.

The Hawkeyes made a historic run a year ago, beginning the season 9-0 for the first time ever. With that naturally came increased excitement among Iowa fans, but also increased the number of problems related to irresponsible tailgating by students and adults.

UI officials wanted to make the tailgating policy change before the 2010 season, which boasted a highly anticipated home schedule that included a rivalry game against Iowa State, plus marquee matchups with traditional Big-Ten Conference powerhouses Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State.

Jim Swift, an Iowa football letterman from 1976-79, has parked in the Kinnick Stadium lot for five years. He said the new policies seemed a little excessive.

“I understand what they’re after, obviously they don’t want people drinking and driving, which is fine, nobody wants people drinking and driving,” Swift said. “But it’s kind of like the society as a whole today. We create all these rules that apply to just a few people that penalize all the people.”

Swift, who was an honorary captain for the Sept. 11 game against Iowa State, drives to Hawkeye games from Des Moines and said he enjoys hanging around after games with friends and family, whether consuming alcohol or not.

“I think the university and the city of Iowa City could have made a more gradual shift away from their current policies that evolved over a period of time to really just flipping the switch off against having that social atmosphere,” said Swift, who pays just under $10,000 per season to park in the Kinnick Stadium lot.

Related issues

Another topic that relates to the problems with tailgating is the Iowa City City Council’s passage of a law which prohibits citizens under the age of 21 to be in a drinking establishment past 10 p.m. In the past, persons above 19 could enter bars. On November 2, the city voted to uphold the 21-only-law for the next two years but a 52/48 percent margin.

Lone Tree, Iowa native and 22-year-old student Mike Close understands the crackdown on enforcing alcohol policies during tailgating.

“I think since the bars aren’t 19 anymore, that’s where a lot of the kids think they can get away with partying. So cops and the university want to step it up to prove that they’re on it no matter what.”

The tailgating policy changes comes at a time when the city of Iowa City and the University of Iowa are both looking to clean up their respective images, which have stereotypes of high underage and binge drinking.

But these aren’t just stereotypes, however—a survey by the Princeton Review ranked the University of Iowa as the No. 9 Top American Party Schools for 2010-11.

Barta seemed to agree with Swift in a statement from the September 9 news release, and he acknowledged that the original policy changes were a bit over the top.

“We know that 95 percent of fans attending Hawkeye games act responsibly,” Barta said. “And we greatly appreciate that… We made some mistakes last Saturday. I’m grateful the university as a group rolled up our collective sleeves and worked hard to make adjustments and improvements leading into this Saturday.

“We’ll need everyone’s help to try to achieve these goals.”

The future of tailgating

Tom Rocklin, vice president for student services, said the main objective of either policy change is safety.

“The University of Iowa is not interested in prohibiting the consumption of alcohol on game days,” Rocklin said. “However, we are firmly committed to doing what we can to prevent unsafe and illegal consumption because that contributes to a positive experience for everyone.”

The university has not released any information regarding tailgating since the statement on September 8. The public has also demonstrated a somewhat positive reaction to the one-hour tailgating extension.

For the time being, the future of Iowa tailgating seems relatively safe.

Finding the right path

By Robbie Lehman

Surrounded by the abundance of Iowa Hawkeye memorabilia in his bedroom, PJ Smith feels comfortable, like he’s on the right track.

As a swimmer at Linn-Mar High School in Marion, Iowa, Smith had no idea that injuring his sternoclavicular joint would be a defining moment in his life—the moment that propelled him on the right track.

The injury helped Smith discover that the right track for him was to pursue a career in the field of health care.

Now a 21-year-old senior at the University of Iowa, Smith has been a student athletic trainer for the Hawkeye wrestling and football teams, and is currently working with the field hockey squad.

Smith says he enjoys every minute of it.

“I’ve always been interested in the human body and how it works,” he said. “I think from that aspect it’s neat to solve problems and to have that trust with athletes that will come to you.”

PJ Smith

Growing up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Smith was educated in the rich tradition of Iowa athletics and what it means to call the “Hawkeye State” home. It was a no-brainer for Smith to come to the UI for college.

The right path once he got here, though, wasn’t so easy to find. He new he wanted to be involved in health care of some sort, just not exactly in what capacity. He switched from a pre-med focus during freshman orientation. Taking a shot, he applied to the Iowa Athletic Training program, one of the best in the Big Ten if not nationally, and was accepted.

It was a perfect fit for Smith, the perfect combination of sports and health care.

Now, three years later, Smith has a wealth of knowledge and firsthand experience under his belt. He is a believe in the saying, “You get out what you put in.” He lives up this, logging hours of time during practices, games and traveling with field hockey, all while keeping up on his class work. Time commitment is the nature of the job, he says.

For a sports fan like Smith, athletic training hardly seems like work. He’s the type of person who loves to be around the action, and he hasn’t questioned his career path once.

“Ever since I got in [to the athletic training program], just working with athletes and being around sports, helping with every sport from wrestling to football and now field hockey… It’s been quite the transformation from what I thought I would do to where I’m at now,” Smith said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had to second guess or look back at all.”

Relationships are also what Smith enjoys about being an athletic trainer, and not only with the athletes and coaches he works with. He’s met some of his best friends in the program. He also benefits from what he calls “a great staff” of instructors and professionals in the Iowa program.

John Streif, assistant athletic trainer, has been at the University of Iowa since 1972. It’s fair to say he knows a thing or two about the occupation. He also sees qualities in Smith that he believes will take him far in his chosen profession.

“PJ is a hard working, dedicated individual that is a true, true Hawk,” Streif said. “He loves to be with the Hawks and loves to be along the program and a part of it. He’s got a great future as an athletic trainer.”

Smith’s hobbies pretty much revolve around sports. Big surprise. He doesn’t get to ski as much as he used to, but he loves taking trips to Colorado. He still swims when he has the time to workout, and spends his Sundays rooting for the Green Bay Packers. And as if he’s not busy enough already, he also works at T-Spoons Coffee Café in Iowa City.

But training is where Smith is in his element. He believes there is something more to being an athletic trainer than what people see on the surface.

“It’s a power, but I think it’s a privilege also to have that knowledge to be able to have someone come to you in a time of need and to be there for them,” Smith said

Other than it being time consuming, Smith hasn’t had any negative experiences as an athletic trainer that he can remember. His favorite memory was traveling to Ames for the Iowa-Iowa State wrestling meet in 2009, which the No. 1-ranked Hawkeyes won, 18-16.

Smith’s dream job is to work with a Division I university or a professional sports team. As for the immediate future, he plans on graduating this coming May. He’s currently looking into graduate schools to further his study and practice in athletic training. Schools such as Arizona State, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin and Iowa are on his short list.

A new path looms for Smith, one that may possibly take him away from home, and he knows it. As the Iowa native and lifelong Hawkeye fan sits in his black and gold-decorated bedroom, wearing an Iowa Sports Medicine t-shirt, he talks wanting to find a new experience after graduation. He is looking forward to the next step in his career, keeping on the right track, wherever it ends up taking him.

One thing is certain no matter where he goes. Smith will always keep the beloved Hawkeyes in his heart.

Toronto Film Festival

Movie fans, brace yourself: The 35th Annual Toronto International Film Festival kicks off today.

The festival is an important event for anyone who loves movies. In order to localize this story, I would interview Aron Aji, or any of the other professors from the University of Iowa Cinema & Comparative Literature Department. I found this page by using a simple Google search. Anyone from this department could speak intelligently about the festival and what it means to the subject of movies.

A second possible source would be Scott W. Smith, the author of the blog “Screenwriting From Iowa,” where he writes about and reviews films. He would be able to discuss the festival and localize it to an Iowa audience. I discovered this blog while searching in WordPress.

by Robbie Lehman

PJ Smith

PJ Smith is an athletic training student at the University of Iowa. He currently works as the main athletic trainer for the Hawkeye field hockey team this fall.

The University of Iowa has one of the country’s best program’s for athletic training. Students get hands-on experience working with many of the Hawkeye varsity sports, both male and female, as well as other opportunities with club teams and spirit squads. The department’s mission is “to support University student-athletes in their efforts to maximize health and safety and to develop as mature individuals.”

Athletic training is vitally important in today’s sporting culture, which has become much more technical as well as physical. There is plenty of information on the subject; Athletic Training Innovations is an example of a blog that talks about products and programs and other things dealing with sports and athletic training.

Communication between athletic trainers is also an important part of the job, as they are able to learn new methods and whatnot as the profession and sports both advance. The National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) has a Facebook page in which it uses to not only market itself but to share knowledge with others who have a passion for athletic training.

I chose to uses these three specific links because they each add something different as far as information regarding athletic training. Also, each link adds variety simply because of the nature of its medium: one is a university Web site, one is a blog and one is a social media site. The Web site for the University of Iowa Athletic Training Department is the official page for information on Iowa’s program. The Athletic Training Innovations blog is a less formal site for details of athletic training that is written by real athletic trainers who we know are credible in discussing their field. Finally, Facebook is the least formal of these Web sites, but it is designed to allow communication between users which the other two sites do not allow. So overall, it is good to have a variety of places because they all bring their own characteristics to the table.

by Robbie Lehman