A recent opinion piece for the Campus Times acknowledged changes to alcohol policies at the national level that impact the fraternity community on our campus. I want to explain some context behind those changes, clarify why this is not a “dry” event policy, and explain our reaction as the Interfraternity Council. We find it important that we all understand how these policy changes impact our campus, and place them in a larger context of how Greek life contributes to our campus community as a whole.
This year, the national governing bodies for our 12 Interfraternity Council fraternities agreed unanimously to policies intended to reduce the risk of alcohol-related incidents at our social events. The primary change affecting social events mandates that alcohol be served either by a licensed bartender our brought directly by a guest for personal use (BYOB) rather than purchased and provided by the fraternity. Due to the cost associated with a licensed bartender, most organizations holding parties have registered BYOB events to continue holding social events with alcohol. In the past few weeks, we have worked with the school to determine guidelines for hosting these events in a way that is consistent with national policies and feasible for the University of Rochester campus. The main policy that impacts the changes you mention in your recent article is that all events with alcohol must be BYOB or served by a third-party vendor. Most of the chapters at UR have chosen to either register events on CCC (yes – parties are registered just like any organization’s events) as BYOB or as dry events. Guests attending a BYOB event may bring their own alcohol (one six pack of beer or one 750mL bottle of wine per student) and check it at the bar at the event. They then get a wristband, and can be served their own alcohol at the bar. The same policies the campus is used to still hold regarding most everything else: SWARM monitors must still be present, under-21 attendees must get X’s on their hand and may not be served, etc. Especially crucial is that Medical Amnesty policy has not changed at all, and neither have our risk management policies. So, when attending a fraternity party, note that the only things that change on the attendee side of things is how alcohol is served and who it is coming from.
The underlying reason behind these national policy changes is to keep students safe, a goal that our IFC community shares. I do not wish to dispel important discussions surrounding the impact that these policies have on underage students that attend parties, or what happens before, during and after parties in our residence halls. I do wish to dispel, however, the conclusion that suddenly our fraternities are dry, and that this means that our chapters are adapting looser risk management strategies. Our campus’ fraternities are committed to providing a safe environment for the guests that we choose to invite into our homes. It’s also in the best interest of our chapters to have sound risk management policies, not just because they are our national policies but because we care about the safety of every student who attends our events. There are, of course, important discussions surrounding the impact these policies have on underage students that attend parties. Pre-gaming in residence halls has always been a challenge, and the responsibility does not just fall to the residential life staff to keep those students safe. At the same time, it is unfair to suggest that giving underage students easy access to alcohol at a fraternity party is the best way to promote safe student drinking, and that their safety falls entirely on the fraternity community.
While we hope that every student who comes to our events has a good time, we take pride in being more than just a place for students to party. Greek Life at UR means commitment to brotherhood, sisterhood, scholarship, philanthropy, community involvement and much more. It can be easy to view Greek Life as a machine that churns out drunk underage students, bright lights, and music. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Our Greek organizations are brotherhoods and sisterhoods that give their members a community in which they can thrive as people, scholars, leaders, and shining examples of what it means to be a Yellowjacket.
Benjamin Richardson is the Director of Public Relations for the University of Rochester Interfraternity Council.