UI Collegiate Recovery Program offers substance-free tailgates

The UI Collegiate Recovery Program is one of 131 in the nation and recently implemented new initiatives on campus to help students who seek support with substance abuse, including substance-free tailgates.


Hayden Froehlich

Hawkeye fans gather in the Main Library parking lot for tailgate festivities before the Iowa vs. Purdue game at sunrise on Saturday, October 19th, 2019. Iowa was ranking 23rd in the AP Collegiate Football Ranking poll.

Eleanor Hildebrandt, News Reporter

In response to varying concerns about alcohol safety on the University of Iowa campus, there will now be substance-free tailgates offered to students before Hawkeye football games as an alternative to more mainstream tailgates.

The UI Collegiate Recovery Program is one of 131 in the nation and 28 in the Midwest, according to the Association of Recovery in Higher Education. The UI Collegiate Recovery Program was founded in 2016 but is making several new additions this semester, including its new tailgates.

Following its creation of a “safe space” in the Iowa House Hotel over the past year, the organization has started implementing new initiatives to assist students struggling with or recovering from alcohol and drug abuse.

Student Wellness Behavioral Health Consultant Karen Grajczyk helps run the UI Collegiate Recovery Program and contributed to the creation of its new programs.

“It’s a difficult journey to overcome issues related to substance use,” Grajczyk said. “But with the UI [Collegiate Recovery Program], students can get support from peers to help them on their way to their goals, whatever they are.”

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Grajczyk said the program’s brand-new, substance-free tailgate is open to all students, regardless of their interaction with substance abuse.

The first tailgate was on Aug. 31, Grajczyk said, and about 100 students were in attendance. The second tailgate occurred Oct. 19 to preface the Hawkeye Homecoming football game against Purdue.

The UI Collegiate Recovery Program partners with the Pride Alliance Center, Residence Education, Student Wellness, University Counseling Services, Fraternity and Sorority Life, and Recreation Services to put on the tailgate, Grajczyk said.

She added that one of the initiatives the program will continue this fall, “Success, Not Excess,” has been perfected over the past few years.

Student Well-Being and Harm Reduction Initiatives Director Tanya Villhauer said “Success, Not Excess” has been one of the main initiatives at the UI Collegiate Recovery Program since its founding.

The initiative fosters a supportive space for students by facilitating discussion of shared experiences and equipping students for success on campus through the removal of barriers created by substance use, Grajczyk said.

International SMART Recovery meetings is one new option for students this fall, Villhauer said, and is scientifically backed for a healthier lifestyle.

“I’m excited we will now be offering it,” Villhauer said. “It’s another option to students that uses a different approach to empower change in their lifestyles other than [Alcoholics Anonymous].”

These meetings are not only for individuals struggling with substance abuse, but anyone with family or friends affected by those struggles, Villhauer said.

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After attending just one meeting, someone can be added on a list at the Iowa House Hotel for access to the program’s space at any given time, whether they need to escape parties or from roommates participating in substance use, Grajczyk said. She added that every program by her organization is anonymous.

“A barrier [that] students may have coming to our support groups is that they might not want to do something affiliated with the school that may breach their confidentiality,” she said. “I want students to know that all of our events and meetings are confidential unless personal safety is at risk.”

UI freshman Waylon Weirather said he did not know about the Collegiate Recovery Program before arriving on campus.

“I think it’s an amazing campus resource that more students should know about,” Weirather said. “You never know who is struggling with addiction, and now there’s an outlet for those affected.”