- A RELIGIOUS FOUNDATION AND EXPRESSIVE ASSOCIATION RIGHTS
- DEFERRED RUSH AT COLORADO?
- IS THERE STILL SPEECH FREEDOM?
- LATINO-GREEKS ARRIVE
- EDUCATIONAL GRANTS FROM FOUNDATION TO FRATERNITY
- HAZARDS OF DECORATIVE PARTY POOLS
- CHAPTER HOUSES AND FRATERNITY CULTURE
Newsletter > January 2005 > "CHAPTER HOUSES AND FRATERNITY CULTURE"
CHAPTER HOUSES AND FRATERNITY CULTURE
Robert Manley, Manley Burke
With an attention-grabbing title, “The War on Frat Culture And Why Maybe That’s Not So Totally Great, Dude,” the New York Times magazine did a multi-page spread on dry fraternity houses. It was written by Phi Delta Theta Benoit Denizet-Lewis who visited his Phi Delta Theta Chapter at Northwestern University. He had lived in the Chapter House in the 1990s.
He reports that 13 fraternities at Northwestern are alcohol-free. When the University recognizes a new fraternity, it must agree to be alcohol-free as well.
He gives graphic descriptions of a keg party held off campus, away from the Phi Delta Theta house, by Phi Delta Theta members. The party had six kegs and a goodly number of the brothers had been “over poured.” He does not discuss to what extent the “over poured” brothers were underage. He does not discuss the reality that it is unlawful to provide alcohol for people under the age of 21, or to people who have already consumed so much alcohol as to have their judgment impaired. These crimes are reported as though they are more acceptable than to have an alcohol-free fraternity house.
The article stresses the fact that even though the house is dry, the housekeeping in the Phi Delta Theta house at Northwestern is not improved. He refers to the Chapter House as “an unmitigated disaster” and quotes an unnamed freshman, “it’s shockingly nasty.”
He reports that across the country, 30 colleges have banned alcohol from their fraternity houses. This is the way the rules were before 1960 when fraternity houses were dry.
The article does a good job of reporting student gripes about the lack of alcohol in the fraternity house. Aside from referring to the lack of lawsuits facing Phi Delta Theta, the article does not recognize any benefit of having alcohol-free housing.
The reality is that a neighborhood saloon can be a fine institution. Unfortunately, many fraternity houses evolved into the equivalent of a neighborhood saloon, probably operating as illegally as a speak-easy in Prohibition days. The question that needs to be asked is, “Is it desirable to live in a neighborhood saloon?” Or, to put it another way, why would any rational person want to convert his house into a neighborhood saloon?
There was a time when many people saw no harm in a fraternity house functioning as a neighborhood saloon. There is the amusing tale of an undergraduate who answered the door of his fraternity house. The visitor was a plainclothes policeman who identified himself and asked if he could come in and look around. The student was proud to show off the house, including a pop vending machine that dispensed canned beer if you put the right coin combination into the slot. The student was so conditioned to believe that it was normal for the house to function like a saloon that he did not realize that the beer-dispensing machine was a crime on a number of scores. It involved selling alcohol without a license. It involved no oversight to determine whether or not the buyer was of age or already drunk. To serve beer to an underage person or to someone who is already drunk is another crime. The poor undergraduate was shocked when the police came back the next day with arrest warrants.
The big part of the story that was omitted was the simple reality that fraternities that have adopted a policy of dry houses have experienced some good things:
1) Their recruitment has risen;
2) Their grade point average has risen;
3) House repairs have become less necessary because of less damage to the house through excessive consumption of alcohol in it;
4) Liability insurance rates have fallen;
5) Lawsuits have decreased; and
6) The dry-house policy attracts students who are joining because of the principles of the fraternity with the motivation for serious academic work rather than whimsical entertainment.
More importantly, undergraduate members of dry houses are not so desensitized to the misuse of alcohol that they are likely to show a coin-operated vending machine which dispenses beer illegally to a visiting plainclothes detective. Dry-house undergraduates who have parties where alcohol is served typically must do it at a licensed establishment where the establishment can take responsibility for compliance with the law. A reckless disregard for the law is being wiped out of the fraternity culture. Mistakes will always be made, but dry fraternity houses are reducing the opportunities for mistakes. That is why national fraternities have adopted a policy of dry houses.
Meanwhile, alcohol on campus has attracted global attention by its discussion and the weekly magazine The Economist (January 22, 2005). The headline “Booze control” in the journal that normally discusses international politics and economics discusses dry campuses. The Economist reports alcohol has recently been outlawed on the campus of the University of Oklahoma in reaction to a recent alcohol-related fraternity death.
Also, The Economist reports that one in every three university or college campuses in the United States is dry.
At the University of Oklahoma, the discipline policy is to suspend any student who violates the no-alcohol rule three times. This is the academic alcohol “three strikes” and you are out rule.
The Economist also reports research that fewer students on dry campuses drink. It also reports that colleges and universities are conducting alcohol-awareness programs.
The Economist ends its report with a tongue-in-cheek statement, “And diehard drinkers could always choose to study abroad: in Britain, not only are you allowed to drink at 18, but student unions are actually allowed to sell the stuff themselves, on campus.”