- TIME TO THROW OUT A MEMBER?
- NIC ENDORSES ALCOHOL-FREE HOUSING
- DISCIPLINARY RECORDS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
- GREEK WORLD CHANGES SLOWLY
- SCAVENGER HUNT TO INFAMY
Newsletter > January 1998 > "GREEK WORLD CHANGES SLOWLY"
GREEK WORLD CHANGES SLOWLY
Robert E. Manley, Manley & Burke
In the last quarter century there have been slow changes in the way in which Greek organizations manage their affairs.
For decades, in some cases for a century or more, fraternities operated without comprehensive liability insurance for all of their chapters. The general fraternity had insurance on its general officers and administrators. Those chapters that had houses usually had a homeowner’s policy purchased by their house corporations. In some cases, the named insured clause was broad enough to include the members of the chapter. They lived a charmed existence. They had few lawsuits.
[For decades, in some cases for a century or more, fraternities operated without comprehensive liability insurance for all of their chapters.]
The introduction of alcohol in chapter houses in the late 60’s and in the 70’s changed that. Lawsuits became a plague on fraternity houses.
The women’s fraternities pioneered the establishment of national programs of liability insurance to cover all of their chapters. Some male fraternity leaders patronizingly belittled them for such folly. The argument was that “if we insure all of the chapters through a national policy, that will make the national fraternity liable for the foolishness of local chapters.” It did not take long to find out that liable or not the national organization gets sued when the local chapter gets sued. Now, notwithstanding the wailing that buying national insurance would expand liabilities, virtually every well-run fraternity has a national program of liability insurance or some technique to cause chapters to buy insurance.
Next came the issue of risk management. The thought was that the general fraternity should educate the chapter leaders on how to avoid lawsuits. This meant education on the evils of hazing, education on the hazards of mismanaged parties, education on the lawful and unlawful uses of alcohol, education on human relations, education on neighborhood relations, and education on chapter-university relations. The naysayers once again protested that the national effort at risk management is pure folly. The risk management literature will be used by plaintiffs’ lawyers as a road map to prove liability.
The theory behind this is that if you teach actives how to behave as responsible adults you are somehow or another introducing regulations that you must enforce or suffer grave liability consequences. Everyone knows that there is no way a national headquarters can enforce detailed regulations in a large number of remote chapters. What the national organization can do is educate the chapters on sensible ways to deal with their grave responsibilities. Once again, the naysayers passed into the background and every well-run national fraternity has an ongoing program of risk management. Thus far, the fraternities’ risk management programs have not generated additional liability for the nationals. Such programs have no doubt prevented thousands of lawsuits about which no one will ever know, because the incidents that would have given rise to such lawsuits never happened.
[Now, notwithstanding the wailing that buying national insurance would expand liabilities, virtually every well-run fraternity has a national program of liability insurance or some technique to cause chapters to buy insurance.]
Next came F.I.P.G. Those initials stand for Fraternity Insurance Purchasing Group. It was formed after the insurance market dried up for insuring fraternities. In an effort to negotiate favorable insurance policies and insurance rates, the organization promulgated guidelines for the use of alcohol in houses.
Once again, the naysayers said this cannot be done. The argument was that any organization that joins F.I.P.G. will enhance its liability, because the F.I.P.G. guidelines will be used as a road map for plaintiffs’ lawyers to sue fraternities. In fact, the F.I.P.G. guidelines have turned out to be excellent educational devices to help educate chapter leaders on how to cope with their very grave duties and serious responsibilities. There is no indication that these guidelines have increased the liability of the fraternities. On the contrary, probably thousands of lawsuits were avoided because of these guidelines.
[The F.I.P.G. guidelines have turned out to be excellent educational devices to help educate chapter leaders on how to cope with their very grave duties and serious responsibilities.]
During the discussions of alcohol-free facilities at interfraternal organizational sessions over the last couple of years, the same song has been sung. “It is impossible to enforce,” the naysayers say. The same argument is made. To adopt this policy will merely lay out a road map to tell plaintiffs’ lawyers how to sue fraternities. Undoubtedly, just as these dire predictions failed to materialize in previous efforts of fraternities to protect fraternities and their members, the probability is that the alcohol-free facilities movement will not increase lawsuits against fraternities. The probabilities are that the alcohol-free facilities movement will prevent thousands of lawsuits that otherwise would happen.
What is more, alcohol-free residential facilities for fraternities make outstanding good sense. It is one thing to live in a house where alcohol is available. It is an entirely different thing to live in a house where alcohol is the focus. How can a student study in a house that has evolved into a neighborhood saloon? Do serious students really want to live in this type of environment? When a fraternity house ceases to be a neighborhood saloon, will more serious students pledge? As is shown in the following table, during the brief time that Phi Delta Theta has been encouraging its chapters to operate alcohol-free facilities, it has enjoyed an increase in recruitment.
Early Alcohol-Free Recruitment Results
Campus F-96-S-97 F-97
Texas Christian University 0 24
Southeast Missouri 10 21
University of Arkansas 23 38
Washburn University 5 15
Northern Arkansas University 10 23
University of Utah 11 27
University of Colorado 15 25
Auburn University 11 20
Institutions change slowly. Institutions constantly circle the wagons to resist change. The thing that is so astounding is that in the Greek world, the same arguments have been made over and over and over again to resist change. In every case, the argument has proven to be false.