As alcohol-related injuries and deaths on college campuses have become more common, a national conversation has arisen about whether, and to what extent, fraternities and sororities on college campuses that host events with alcohol are liable for the negative outcomes. In response, individual universities and Greek organizations have taken their own steps to curb hazing and cut back on the use of alcohol in ways that contradict their stated values.
The North-American Interfraternity Conference, the governing body that dictates the rules that individual fraternity chapters are expected to follow, indicated late last month that more decisive action was needed. The group voted almost unanimously to impose a liquor ban that will take effect next September. To comply with the ban, every fraternity chapter that is a member of the organization is prohibited from having alcohol above 15 percent alcohol by volume in their fraternity house. In the wake of rampant alcohol-related injuries and deaths on campuses across the country, measures to curb these incidents are absolutely essential.
Hard liquor doesn’t need to be present inside the house for parties to be fun and enjoyable.
As a student who is a member of the fraternity Sigma Nu, I wholeheartedly support the ban. Hard liquor doesn’t need to be present inside the house for parties to be fun and enjoyable.
Individual fraternity chapters are expected to follow certain guidelines decreed by their national headquarters and by their university regarding alcohol safety. Greek organizations must attend workshops and complete trainings about how to properly use alcohol. In addition, all fraternities elect a brother to be a Risk Reduction Chairman, and that individual is responsible for identifying and managing potential risks at parties and ensuring that guests are safe.
Next fall, the liquor ban will take effect and it is imperative that Greek organizations on campus make every effort to observe and uphold the ban. The ban will apply to fraternity houses, in both common spaces and private living areas, regardless of whether the members inside the fraternity house are of legal drinking age.
Fraternity and Sorority Life is the office that dictates GW’s policies regarding events involving alcohol on campus. As mandated by their policy, events with alcohol must be registered, alcohol must not be given to minors, no one can be coerced to drink and the event cannot have any “common-source containers” with alcohol in them, including punch bowls. But current policies lack teeth, and short of a hard ban on liquor, there is no way to ensure that students who attend fraternity parties are safe from situations that overconsumption of alcohol could lead to.
If hard alcohol was banned at fraternity houses, it could lessen the number of assaults that occur related to alcohol consumption.
The merits of a hard liquor ban in fraternity houses go far beyond parties. While hazing is a violation of the student code of conduct at GW, it still occurs on campus and across the country. These rituals can involve forcing pledges to drink huge amounts of hard alcohol and have the potential to put pledges’ lives at risk. Last year, a student at Penn State who was pledging Beta Theta Pi died after hazing rituals went too far. This incident – while extreme and concerning – wasn’t an anomaly. Fraternities nationwide have been suspended or removed from their campuses due to hazing events involving alcohol that resulted in fraternity members being severely injured or killed. These incidents highlight the dangers that hard liquor can exacerbate, but an outright ban on liquor in fraternity houses could remedy the problem.
Along with concerns about hazing, the fact that fraternity parties with hard alcohol also create environments in which consent can be blurred can’t be ignored. In a 2015 study, 15 percent of female students reported incapacitated rape or sexual assault while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If hard alcohol was banned at fraternity houses, it could lessen the number of assaults that occur related to alcohol consumption.
Hard liquor does much more harm than good to fraternities on campus. To combat a toxic culture, the NIC made the right decision in instituting a ban on all hard liquor. It is my hope that fraternities at GW will see the benefits of the ban and work toward making Greek life safer, and in turn more beneficial and enjoyable for everyone involved.
Nate Muramatsu, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.
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