Editorial: Open dialogue needed about alcohol

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On Sunday, University of Iowa freshman Kamil Jackowski was pronounced dead at Lake Region Hospital in Osage Beach, Missouri. Jackowski was found unresponsive early Sunday morning at Sigma Chi’s formal at Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri.

Following the announcement of Jackowski’s passing, leaders of Iowa’s Panhellenic and Interfraternity Councils released a joint statement banning all greek events with alcohol until further notice. Additionally, the statement immediately banned all out-of-state formals.

The powerful statement made by the leaders of the prominent greek councils on campus sheds light on a pervasive alcohol problem facing UI greek life, the university as a whole, and colleges around the country.

The catalyst for this action is truly unimaginable for Jackowski’s family, friends, and fraternity brothers. The conversation started by Jackowski’s passing, however, is an important one and should serve as the first step in changing the drinking culture, not just in UI greek life but around the greater UI campus as well.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board commends the Panhellenic and Interfraternity Councils on their statement and the swift action taken on the road toward lasting change; but this cannot be merely a flash in the pan for a brighter future.

Although it may not, alone, prevent such tragedies in the future, open communication and true transparency are necessary steps to creating a safer greek community on campus. From comments made in Monday’s statement, the greek community is finally beginning to act upon, rather than merely discuss, changes to the system. Crucial to the success of this action, however, is the abandonment of what seems to be a deeply ingrained codification of closed-door conversations designed to undermine (or worse, deny) the existence of the obvious alcohol problem facing this community.

To be sure, the Editorial Board is by no means looking to frown upon or shame the greek community. We are, however, maintaining our belief that being open and honest about tragedies is crucial to help the public stay informed on what is going on, along with potential dangers that certain activities pose.

The Editorial Board believes it is in the public’s best interest to be informed about events that are occurring, no matter how difficult or tragic they may be. While an official cause of death is yet to be released, the joint statement by the Panhellenic and Interfraternity Councils banning alcohol at all official events certainly implies that the dangers of alcohol were experienced this past weekend. It is crucial, then, that this situation not be shied away from and is discussed in an honest, open manner.

In a situation that is clearly different from the events that occurred this weekend, if someone went mountain climbing and fell because of a lack of proper gear, everyone can agree that reporting about this lack of proper gear is necessary in knowing the whole truth. The lack of proper gear in a mountain-climbing death is relevant, and shame or embarrassment about lack of proper gear would not and should not keep the cause of death unreported. If there are any mountain climbers or even someone who knows a mountain climber, then the truth of what happened will hopefully cause climbers in the future to make sure their equipment is up to par. While it is necessary to acknowledge the differences between a mountain climbing accident and Jackowski’s death, and to certainly not make light of the situation, it is also important to recognize the similar need to be transparent in regards to cause.

The Editorial Board is one with the UI community in mourning Jackowski’s life on campus, and hopes the greek community’s steps to address the problems of alcohol come to fruition. Beyond this, it is necessary that university administration think seriously on how rampant drinking can be addressed, not solely in regards to the greek community.

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