UI president to tackle high risk drinking, Greek system

Credit: Paul Boehlke / KTVB

UI president to tackle high risk drinking, Greek system

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by Dee Sarton

Bio | Email | Follow: @KTVB

KTVB.COM

Posted on February 19, 2013 at 11:18 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 12 at 8:43 PM

BOISE -- University of Idaho President, Dr. Duane Nellis, is doing something no UI president in memory has ever done - lending the influence of his office to tackle both high risk drinking among students and the universities relationship with fraternities and sororities.

He sat down for an exclusive interview with our Dee Sarton to explain what he hopes to achieve. 

"We are recognized already statistically for being a safe campus, but I'm not satisfied with that," said Nellis.

Nellis presides over Idaho's only land grant university. Its history goes all the way back to Abraham Lincoln. It's Idaho's oldest university, and Dr. Nellis its 17th president.

"Our university is a leading university in the northwest and the nation, and we're proud of our successes," said Nellis.

He points to the highest graduation rate of any public university in Idaho and an average freshman GPA of 3.4.

Nellis recognizes that snapshot of the UI student body is too often overshadowed by tragic headlines involving high risk drinking like the recent death of Joseph Weiderrick. Police say the student left a fraternity party highly intoxicated and died of hypothermia while trying to find his way home.

Nellis is now taking an unprecedented approach. He is forming two task forces charged with helping him set a bold agenda for change.

"Maybe we can step out and be a leader in providing programs and policies that will not only help move the university of Idaho forward but this national issue forward in trying to address that."

And it appears there are no sacred cows.

"Maybe we need to look at a different type of association between the university and Greek system," said Nellis. "I think institutions nationally, we've moved away from some of the direct oversight of fraternity and sororities and we've allowed the organizations to provide some of that oversight. Maybe the pendulum needs to swing back to much greater oversight."

Whatever recommendations come back from the president's task forces in late spring, his bottom line is clear.

"I think it is an opportune time to really look at and insure that what we're doing is best practice," said Nellis. "We want to do everything we can to create a safest environment for our students."

Click here to watch the full interview with Nellis.

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