Iowa hopes Friday classes will curb Thursday drinking

The Associated Press

IOWA CITY &#8212 The University of Iowa hopes to curb binge drinking by shifting some mandatory classes to Fridays.

The move, scheduled to start in the second semester, is aimed at reducing partying by students on Thursday nights as they begin a three-day weekend.

“Thursdays are the new Friday,” said Chelsea Moore, 19, an international studies and Spanish major from Highland Park, Ill.

The U.S. Surgeon General recommends more Friday classes, and a University of Missouri study shows that students with Friday classes drank less than classmates who didn’t have such classes.

“The evidence . is pretty strong that having students in class on Fridays helps reduce binge drinking,” said Tom Rocklin, associate provost at Iowa.

The Missouri study, funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, showed about two-thirds of students who drank on Thursdays drank more if they had no classes Friday.

The “Thirsty Thursday” phenomenon grew as universities made Fridays a virtually class-free day for students and faculty. Fridays traditionally were set aside for tests and quizzes.

For the current fall semester, Iowa is offering 42.5 percent fewer classes on Friday than on Monday through Thursday.

The University of Northern Iowa has 38 percent fewer Friday classes, and Iowa State is offering 27 percent fewer Friday classes, according to information provided by the schools.

Neither Iowa State nor Northern Iowa have made plans to shift more classes to Fridays.

Iowa plans to add more Friday classes by moving courses with large numbers of freshmen and those with required attendance.

While most freshman are under 21, they are at greatest risk for binge drinking, Rocklin said.

The idea has support from top university officials, including new President Sally Mason.

“We better take a look at that,” Mason said in an earlier interview with The Des Moines Register. “Our students’ health and well-being is so important.”

Mary Trachsel, rhetoric department chairwoman, said it’s reasonable to expect students to be in class five days a week.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to let students’ preferences determine when you schedule courses,” she said.

Some faculty who might lose research time or meeting time because of Friday classes are skeptical of the change.

“I would be none too happy about it, but you just live with it,” said Michael O’Hara, a psychology professor and vice president of the Faculty Senate.

Some students don’t like the idea, either.

“There’s no way you’re going to get students to stop drinking on any night of the week,” said Jennifer Lickteig, 21, a senior from Storm Lake.

Wilkister Tangasi, 18, of Ottumwa, said students don’t need the university to manage their lives.

“There needs to be balance [between academics and partying],” Tangasi said. “But I don’t think it’s the university’s job to make that balance.”