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During Gordon Henry's 24-year administrative career at UND, he investigated the deaths of 38 students.

Of those 38 deaths, only two did not involve alcohol. Henry retired as UND's vice president of student affairs in 1998.

He had to tell 38 sets of parents that their sons or daughters had died, UND biology professor Richard Crawford said Tuesday at the first meeting of a group studying the use of alcohol at UND.

I think we stand at the right point in time to make some changes, Crawford said. That's why I'm here.

Commission formed

Crawford is co-chairing the Commission on Student Use of Alcohol at UND, a group of students, staff and faculty that will spend much of this year studying alcohol use at UND. Crawford made his comments at the group's first meeting on Tuesday.

The commission is particularly interested in learning more about the connections between the abuse of alcohol and other dangerous behaviors.

UND Dean of Students Lillian Elsinga said every sexual assault that has been reported to her office, with the exception of one, involved alcohol, Crawford said.

Commission's charge

The commission was formed at the request of students and administrators. Its charge is to:

Determine the degree to which abuse of alcohol among UND students contributes to the high-risk behavior and the behavior's impact on their success as learners.

Determine which UND events, practices, policies and procedures may unintentionally encourage or permit student abuse of alcohol.

Submit a report of its work to Chris Semrau, UND student body president, and Robert Boyd, vice president for student and outreach services, by March 1, 2000. The report is expected to include recommendations on how UND can best rebuild a campus culture that discourages the abuse of alcohol and its associated high-risk behaviors.

Personal reasons

The ramifications of alcohol abuse were made clear by several commission members who noted personal reasons for their involvement with the group. Some said they had watched family members and friends struggle with alcoholism. One said she had seen people die from alcohol poisoning.

Students make up the majority of the commission. They include representatives from student government and fraternity houses, a residence hall assistant director and a UND football player.

UND neuroscience professor Sharon Wilsnack, the commission's co-chair, stressed that the commission's work will succeed only if students take a lead role.

This just won't work if it's coming from the top down, she said. I'm delighted that there are a majority of students on this committee.

The commission plans to meet weekly before filing its report.

Reference Grand Forks Herald 10/24/99