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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 21, 2018

University of Iowa runs second test of new Greek system party rules

Downtown bars still off limits as event hosts
By Vanessa Miller, The Gazette | Jan 26, 2018

IOWA CITY — Many of the University of Iowa’s 36 fraternities and sororities will have another chance this semester to test new, strict “formal and date party” guidelines crafted after a freshman died at a fraternity formal last April.

The university put a moratorium on Greek parties with alcohol and out-of-town formals after Kamil Jackowski, 19, died while attending a Sigma Chi event at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. Camden County sheriff’s Lt. Arlyne Page told The Gazette he died from alcohol and drugs, although she didn’t provide the final autopsy report.

The moratorium remains in effect, but a Fraternity and Sorority Life Alcohol Harm Reduction Work Group at the end of last semester pitched a pilot opportunity to test a new policy that, among other things, requires advanced guest lists with birth dates, restricts the type and amount of alcohol served, and requires wristbands with tear-off tabs.

Only chapters in compliance with the moratorium were eligible for the fall pilot — 26 out of 36. And only two applied to hold parties or formals. The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity held an event with 200 anticipated attendees at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Iowa City on Dec. 2. The Chi Omega sorority held a party with 300 expected guests that same night at Rapid Creek Cidery in Iowa City.

Sigma Chi, Jackowski’s fraternity, was among those not eligible.

In accordance to the new strict party guidelines, UI public safety officers conducted unannounced compliance checks. At one event, checks uncovered two people without wristbands consuming alcohol, and chapter leadership addressed the behavior immediately, according to a UI report on the pilot project.

At another event, someone tried to bring in alcohol, and chapter leaders — again — took action.

“Compliance checklists and feedback forms from each event indicate the pilot guidelines were effective,” according to the UI report. Thus the alcohol harm reduction work group is extending the pilot to this spring semester. Between Feb. 1 and March 1, eligible chapters can submit a request to hold either one date party or one formal — not both.

To be eligible, groups must be in compliance with UI Code of Student Life and Greek system polices, the moratorium, and national chapter standards. This semester, 23 fraternities and sororities are eligible — although chapters that were ineligible in the fall could become eligible by, among other things, maintaining compliance with the moratorium through March 1.

The university did not disclose details about why specific fraternities or sororities are out of compliance.

According to the test guidelines, groups must submit event-request forms at least two weeks before the proposed parties — and events with alcohol are not allowed for the first two weeks and last two weeks of the semester.

Groups must submit guest lists with their requests — including names, student identification numbers, and birth dates. Although socials in the past have often been in downtown bars, the university is not yet allowing that, as it’s trying to ensure its new policies “will be and can be enacted effectively in that setting.”

As this second semester run at piloting the new policies ensues, the work group will provide monthly updates, according to the university. The group will be taking feedback on “productive ways to create a culture of integrity, safety, and compliance around alcohol harm reduction.”

“We hope that those chapters who have been leaders in complying with the moratorium will consider encouraging peers within the FSL community to do the same, for the health and safety of the community as a whole,” according to the UI report.

The university is not alone in taking a harsher stance against campus alcohol use and abuse in response to tragedy. Deaths of fraternity pledges nationally have prompted some universities to suspend Greek system activities altogether — including Florida State University in Tallahassee, which suspended 55 fraternities and sororities after a pledge’s suspected alcohol-related death.

Other campuses have fraternity members facing criminal charges over alcohol-related deaths.

The University of Iowa created its alcohol harm reduction committee in 2009 in response to mounting issues around alcohol abuse. The group crafted an alcohol harm reduction plan and has reported making progress on its goals. According to its 2016-2019 plan, the percentage of UI students who reported high-risk drinking dropped 23 percent from 2009 to 2015, and the average number of drinks per occasion fell 22 percent during that period.

But university officials are resolved to continue improving.

Below are more details about the new, proposed rules for drinking at UI fraternity and sorority functions:

Chapters will only be allowed to host one date party and one semiformal within Johnson County each semester;

Chapters must hire security to check IDs and cross-check the guest list;

Cash bars can serve only beer, wine and hard cider — and only in specific serving sizes and containers;

Guests will receive a wristband with five pull-off tabs that may be used to purchase a maximum of five drinks over three hours — but no more than two an hour;

Chapters must have one sobriety monitor for every 20 guests.

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