Colleges and universities nationwide have faced controversy surrounding fraternities and sororities for years. Drinking and hazing scandals aside, some take issue with the culture that surrounds these organizations. Recently, there has been a “crackdown” (depending on who’s asked) by national fraternities to their chapters regarding alcohol and hazing for greek life organizations. Newly created policies demand “dry frats” where no alcohol is distributed at on-campus fraternity events.
First-year Abbey Fitzpatrick and take five RA Muhammad Hadi share their thoughts and perspective on the issue below.
Abby Fitzpatrick, First-Year
This begs some critical questions: are these policies actually effective? If not, what policies are effective?
On social media and entertainment mediums, college is seen as a wild kingdom where every weekend is straight from an “Animal House” scene. These depictions of college aren’t necessarily accurate, but they do shed some light on the truth: underage and reckless drinking does happen, more frequently than you might think. In order for policies, lenient or strict, to work effectively, the culture and people’s attitudes toward it needs to change on both sides.
So are the policies in place effective? Yes and no. Yes in that there is administrative attention on a growing issue, and some things are being done. But also no, because the people enforcing such policies don’t agree with the policy in the first place. In theory, these policies work, but students can find other sources for alcohol and drink it in off the Fraternity Quad.
And so the second question: what policies are effective? The elephant in the room must be addressed: American views and laws concerning underage drinking needs to be examined. Since the legal drinking age was increased to 21 from 18, there has been a paradoxical relationship. The American legal system defines underage drinking as drinking under 21, while American culture promotes underage drinking as a rite of passage into young-adulthood.
One institution can not make the federal government change the legal drinking age, or make society change its attitudes towards college party culture, and creating a completely effective policy is not achievable. The most effective policy would take into account issues from a local scale to national. There should be restrictions on how much alcohol is served at frat events. But a zero-tolerance policy will cause students to find alternatives which could cause more problems for Public Safety and MERT. The policy should take into account that underage drinking is going to happen, like it or not. But that does not mean that there shouldn’t be consequences if people or events do get out of hand.
Muhammad Hadi, Take 5 Student, RA
This policy itself is a fallacy. All the frat brothers did was move the alcohol up two floors into their bedrooms. But let’s forget this for the sake of argument and focus on the crux of the issue. The responsibility now falls onto Residential Life. Armed with a duty binder and access to an incident reporting platform, the RAs must defend the realm from drinking itself to an early liver failure.
Pregaming is now the main event. Fifteen first-years will cram themselves into a crummy Tiernan single and pull out a handle of the highest quality Svedka and completely devour it before they head to whatever frat is open. The lack of easily accessible alcohol at fraternity parties has simply shifted the drinking problem from the fraternity quad to the first-year quad. Now, it’s falls on RAs shoulders to curb an issue that college administrators have never been able to fix. If a first-year shows up to a party with a BAC of 0.12 percent and gets MERTed, the fraternity doesn’t have to answer, but the blame trickles down onto the RAs. Suddenly, we’re not educating residents about the dangers of alcohol, or we’re not doing rounds well enough.
To add to this façade of “dry parties,” many on-campus fraternities have joined their off-campus comrades in throwing parties at their houses, where they are not bound by the policies of campus. Now, these soon-to-be-inebriated students migrate off campus, into a neighborhood they don’t know, to a house with occupants they probably don’t know, and no RAs-on-duty to save souls in distress. The RAs can no longer do their job because all their residents are off campus and drunk.
How do we cope with a frat-party-level of drinking and social engagement confined within first-year residential halls? Or worse, off campus? Our resources can only help us so much before we’re overwhelmed. I couldn’t care less about this whole dry frat/party business, but stop scapegoating the people who do their jobs in making sure the students stay safe. This campus loves saying “It’s on us”, but really, it’s on Res-Life.
There is no perfect policy for “cracking down” on fraternity-sponsored events that serve alcohol, and this current iteration is no exception. Nonetheless, as members of the UR community, we can take advocate and educate each other, on responsible and safe drinking and partying practices. Instead of debating things that can not change drastically, let’s start a conversation about how to combat the societal conflicts involved and how to combat them together.