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IOWA CITY - Seven months after the death of a popular University of Iowa freshman at a fraternity formal led to a crackdown on drinking at Greek system social events, the UI will allow some chapters to imbibe again next weekend - but only under very strict rules.
To be clear, a moratorium on fraternity and sorority parties with alcohol and out-of-town formals enacted after Kamil Jackowski died April 30 during a Sigma Chi event at the Lake of Ozarks remains in effect for the UI's 36 fraternities and sororities.
But 26 of those the university considers in good standing will get a small reprieve to hold one date party or formal with alcohol either Thursday, Friday or Saturday within Johnson County.
The events are meant to test proposed 'formal and date party” guidelines that were crafted to reshape the frat parties of yore, a challenge being faced nationwide as universities cope with a spate of deaths this year traced to alcohol-fueled parties in Greek systems.
Under the UI's new policy, chapters would be allowed to serve only beer, wine or hard cider for up to three hours. Serving sizes would be regulated, and of-age partygoers allowed a maximum of two drinks an hour - with no more than five total.
Trained servers would monitor consumption by giving partygoers wristbands with pull tabs that can be swapped for drinks. Police would conduct unannounced walk-throughs. Anyone who had been drinking beforehand could be rejected 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,” according to a Nov. 17 letter to the university's Fraternity and Sorority Life Alcohol Harm Reduction work group. 'The opportunity to hold an event is a privilege and comes with responsibility. We are hopeful that the students will rise to this leadership challenge and provide a foundation for continued change within the community.”
The tight regulation comes in response to a historic campus drinking culture that for years has landed the UI atop national party school lists and on occasion has beget tragedy.
Mounting concerns culminated last spring when Jackowski, a 19-year-old first-year student with loads of friends and promise, died in a Missouri hotel that was hosting his frat's formal.
His death was widely mourned on campus and in his hometown of Arlington Heights, Ill.
But it was not isolated.
The deaths of at least four fraternity pledges around the country this year have fueled a re-examination of Greek life, the Associated Press reported last week.
Four universities suspended Greek system activities on their campuses in recent weeks - including Florida State University in Tallahassee, which indefinitely suspended 55 fraternities and sororities after a pledge's suspected alcohol-related death.
Texas State University suspended Greek life on its campus after a 20-year-old Phi Kappa Psi pledge died. Fraternity events were halted at Ohio State University and the University of Michigan, and numerous students across other campuses are facing criminal charges over fraternity-related deaths and misconduct.
Florida International University in Miami is another caught in a firestorm of controversy, specifically over allegations of cocaine trafficking and racist hazing of sorority women, among other things, according to the Miami Herald.
'The Greek system in this country is hanging by a thread,” that university's president, Mark Rosenberg, told the newspaper.
In 2009, the UI responded to issues around alcohol abuse - both inside and outside the Greek system - by convening an alcohol harm reduction committee. The university crafted its first alcohol plan in 2010. Now in its third iteration, the 2016-2019 plan boasts progress: the percentage of UI students who reported high-risk drinking behaviors dropped 23 percent from 2009 to 2015; the average number of drinks per occasion fell 22 percent during that period; and the percentage of students drinking on 10 or more days a month is down 28 percent.
But Jackowski's death exposed the stark reality of persisting risky behavior and prompted the fraternity and sorority life work group to dig deeper for solutions.
'It was quickly evident that there is a culture of non-compliance throughout the community,” according to a memo on the work group efforts out of the UI Division of Student Life. 'In addition, there currently is little support for self-governance in terms of good performers encouraging poor performers to align with community values.”
The work group arrived at the new guidelines after conducting analyses and reviews and building consensus, according to the memo.
The upcoming test of the guidelines will inform administrators on when - if at all - to enact the policy on a broader scale and let UI Greek chapters start holding parties with alcohol again.
Fraternities and sororities that participate in the pilot parties must complete after-party surveys and participate in meetings so administrators and work group members can assess the new rules' success.
If the rules become permanent, fraternities and sororities in good standing would be allowed one date party and one formal with alcohol within Johnson County per semester.
The chapters must submit an application two weeks in advance, complete with a guest list. Chapters must provide trained monitors throughout the party, along with bartenders trained in responsible drinking and security to check identifications.
The UI did not provide details showing why 10 chapters are not eligible to host parties under the pilot program, except to say they were out of compliance with the moratorium or policies.
According to the Division of Student Life, the formals or date parties cannot be held at downtown Iowa City bars, although hotels or the Celebration Barn in Solon are acceptable.
'We believe the pilot provides a chance for the community to model its values of leadership,” according to a letter that went to all eligible fraternity and sorority chapters. 'We hope those who participate will rise to this leadership challenge and provide a foundation for continued positive change.”
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Among the proposed rules for allowing drinking at University of Iowa fraternity and sorority functions:
l Chapters must submit a request at least two weeks in advance
l Chapters must submit a guest list, including birth dates and student ID numbers
l Chapters must hire security to check IDs and cross-check the guest list
l The cash bars can serve only beer, wine and hard cider
l Guests can have up to five drinks over a three-hour period, but no more than two an hour
l Chapters must have one sobreity monitor for every 20 guests
Source: University of Iowa Division of Student Life