Greeks make alcohol progress


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The University of Iowa's new three-year plan to reduce dangerous drinking targets one group on campus already seeing positive results — greek life.

In the Alcohol Harm Reduction Plan released on Tuesday, officials noted they plan to continue some initiatives geared at fraternities and sororities such as educating bars on individual houses' drinking rules and training members about alcohol safety.

Those efforts have been successful, according to UI officials and survey results. Reports of binge drinking among greek members decreased by 25 percent from an initial survey in 2008 to one given two months later, said Stephanie Beecher, a health educator at Health Iowa. In that time, 23 percent fewer greek students said they drank during tailgates.

Officials said they included programs aimed at the greek community in the plan to continue the initiatives' success in the first two years.

"We're also working on initiatives that will educate in-house directors because they're the closest to their members and should have that knowledge at their disposal," said Melissa Shaub, the UI assistant director of Fraternity and Sorority Life.

Beyond self-reported drinking rates, the number of arrest and citations — mainly for alcohol-related crimes — has fallen by about 3 percentage points from 2008-09 school year to 2009-10.

Still, fraternities maintained the highest rate for charges among any other campus groups — including sororities and the overall undergraduate average — with 12.6 percent of members charged.

But some within the greek system say targeting fraternities and sororities is unnecessary.

"I feel that in-house educational [efforts] are more beneficial than campuswide ones," said Mark Rigby, president of the Interfraternity Council. "If you have a small group that's just one chapter of about 50 or 60, it's easier to garner attention of the members."

One expert agreed that focused on intra-house education is most effective.

"What's essential is fostering the brotherhood and the sisterhood, and that's where you begin to have an effect on drinking," said Dale Tampke, the dean of undergraduate studies at the University of North Texas who has 20 years of experience in advising greek life and various large universities.

Paul Jermihov, the live-in house director for the UI chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon — which has a 14 percent arrest and citation rate — said his fraternity has done more to combat risky drinking behaviors since being put on probation for open container violations on house property.

"We found it as a great opportunity to develop our own plans to reduce drinking," he said. "And I think it gives me a good chance to show them how to handle certain situations."

Jermihov said he is working to reduce that number by enforcing member attendance at alcohol-education meetings, and he would also like to encourage more positive peer responses to high alcohol consumption.

"I want them to know that when they're out drinking they're representing not only themselves but the entire chapter," he said. "And do what ever they can for their brothers."

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