University of Iowa Testing Alcohol Pilot Program For Greek Life

By Britni de la Cretaz 11/29/17

The university aims to reduce high-risk drinking with the new program. 

The women of Alpha Phi - University of Iowa
Alpha Phi - University of Iowa Photo via YouTube

The University of Iowa has banned all Greek events with alcohol following the death of a freshman this past April. Kamil Jackowski, 19, was found unresponsive in a hotel room during a fraternity formal.

However, the university has now announced that fraternities and sororities can hold one event with alcohol this weekend, according to the Press-Citizen.

The allowance is part of a new pilot program regarding the distribution of alcohol at Greek events. The program guidelines prohibit hard liquor and put a limit on the amount of time the alcohol can be served—three hours. The fraternities and sororities must also hire security who can check IDs at the door.

"We believe this is an important opportunity for chapter members and leaders to be participants in positive change regarding the alcohol culture within the fraternity and sorority community," Greek leaders wrote in a letter to the university's alcohol harm reduction work group, according to the Press-Citizen.

UI is hoping to reduce high-risk drinking among its students with this program. However, a 2016 study found that most alcohol interventions don’t stop the drinking culture often associated with fraternities, even if the methods are effective in other populations. And Jackowski’s death was not an isolated incident; fraternity and sorority-adjacent alcohol-related deaths have become an all too common occurrence on college campuses.

Earlier this year, Texas State University suspended four fraternities following “alcohol policy violations” and the death of a student who was found near one of their parties.

Eighteen members of a Penn State fraternity are currently facing charges in the death of one of their pledges. And just this week, Indiana University announced the suspension of all fraternity social events with alcohol, just two weeks after Ohio State University banned all fraternity activities. Both these decisions were voted on by the Interfraternity Council (IFC). 

Authors of a 1996 study that looked at the drinking habits of fraternity and sorority members concluded that they were binge drinking at much higher rates than the general population.

“The excessive drinking of members must be placed in the spotlight until institutional leaders acknowledge and take action to drastically reduce the intolerable risks to individuals and to the institution,” the authors wrote. More than 20 years later, it seems institutions are finally beginning to listen.

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.