This January marks five years since the tragic death of Joseph Wiederrick.
Joseph was a UI freshman who left a party on a cold January night. He ended up more than a mile outside of town and froze to death under a bridge. This incident was a wakeup call for the campus and larger community.
An Alcohol Task Force and a Greek Life Task Force were formed, each of which helped implement new programs and policies designed to mitigate risk around alcohol and provide a safer environment for our students. For example, an Alcohol and Other Drugs Program Coordinator position was created and a Relationship Agreement was signed between the University and our Fraternity and Sorority houses, which included harm reduction strategies such as requiring event notification forms with guest lists, providing food and non-alcoholic beverages and having sober house leadership monitor events.
University of Idaho student leaders continue working to create a safer environment. In spring 2016, ASUI leaders helped draft and pass State-wide Medical Amnesty legislation, ensuring legal protection for those who call for help or are transported for alcohol or other drug emergencies.
While most UI students tend to drink responsibly most of the time, the most recent National College Health Assessment shows that average number of drinks consumed has increased. While it has been five years since the last known alcohol-related death, too many students remain at risk of experiencing alcohol-related harm.
Recently, our Greek leadership put a moratorium on socials until they could do more to mitigate risk around alcohol. My understanding is this was not in reaction to a single event that occurred, but because they recognized a risky environment and were concerned that a tragic event could occur. I applaud our Greek leadership for being proactive and remain impressed by their sincere desire to maintain safer environments for our students. It is important to note that risk around alcohol is not limited to Greek members, but their leadership on this issue contributes to safer campus environment for all students.
For the most part, students do a good job looking out for each other.
As we mark the five year anniversary of Joseph’s death let us remain mindful of his family’s wishes which are marked near the bridge where he died: “He reached out to his community. May we always respond with love in his memory.”
Brian Dulin | Alcohol and Other Drug Program Coordinator