Getting Alcohol Out of Fraternity Houses
Alcohol consumption in the University of Alabama fraternity houses is at an all-time high. Every weekend, there are probably tens of parties occurring in different fraternity houses across the school. Most of these parties are invite only soirees with bulky men guarding the doors and permitting a select few to pass through. Cases of alcohol and mysterious punch are the norm in such events, with young men and women passed out on couches, and half-clad teenagers smoking and dancing on makeshift dance floors.
Such scenarios are common in almost every college in the country. Fraternity houses holding parties every weekend with unlimited amounts of alcohol has become so entrenched in American college life and society that no one really questions the idiocratic behavior that goes on in these parties. Regardless of all the shocking stories that emerge from these parties, no one, not even the government is willing to touch the subject of alcohol-crazed fraternity parties.
However, it is time that the society started questioning the wisdom of allowing male adolescents to throw weekly parties without any adult supervision and access to all the alcohol they want. While different kinds of college students engage in binge drinking, a 2001 College Alcohol Study conducted by Harvard demonstrated that fraternity house members are twice as likely to engage in binge drinking as non-members (Wechsler & Nelson 483).
The alcohol served in these parties is merely a gateway drug for the individuals who attend these parties. You will find serious drug abuse in any of these parties at any given time. The drugs are mostly psychedelic drugs including LSD and marijuana.
Drug and alcohol abuse is one thing but sexual harassment is a completely different matter positively correlated to the binge drinking that occurs in these parties. Multiple cases of sexual harassment against women and homosexual men have been the norm of these parties at the university for decades. Incidences of rape and murder in these fraternity parties are on the rise. There are many times when the culprits continue to roam free due to fear of public backlash on the university.
The observation is not meant to insinuate that all sexual assaults in campus occur in a fraternity. However, there is a stronger proclivity to violence and discrimination in these houses especially when alcohol is involved. Many students view the different houses as places where women who enter are viewed differently than in any other building on the campus. This different view is what causes the incessant sexual assault and rape cases that occur within the fraternity houses.
The treatment of homosexuals is also often shocking at these parties. Homosexuals are hazed, demeaned, and sometimes even physically assaulted at the hands of drunken fraternity partygoers. The mis-treatment of homosexuals and women at these parties is a clear demonstration of how alcohol combined with societal stereotypes can lead to people inflicting harm on others.
Furthermore, the sheer amount of alcohol served at these parties is a health risk for the fraternity members. Studies have shown that fraternity members drink more alcohol than non-frat members do. Binge drinking is common at these fraternity parties and the revelers partake in excess drinking every weekend of the school semester (Whipple 8). There is also a high likelihood that the individuals partake in binge drinking when school closes. Such high alcohol intake inevitably leads to serious and detrimental health issues for the adolescents. Their life span is significantly reduced due to their large alcohol intake.
The deaths of fraternity members are also on the increase due to heavy indulgence of alcohol. For instance, Blake Adam Hammontree who was a freshman student at the University of Oklahoma died from alcohol poisoning while partying at the Sigma Chi house. Lynn Gordon Bailey Jr., a student at the University of Colorado was found dead after drinking during the initiation ritual of the Chi Psi pledge (Denizet-Lewis 17).
The use of drugs and alcohol has also resulted in the skyrocketing of the number of accidents that involve fraternity students and their friends. More than 1200 accidents involving drunken fraternity students are reported on annual basis. Sadly, some of these accidents are fatal and many young lives are lost as a result.
There are several methods at the disposal of the University of Alabama to help curb alcohol abuse in its fraternities. A complete alcohol ban should be imposed in all fraternities across the country. Phi Delta Theta adopted the alcohol free policy in all of the institutions that it has members in. According to an interview with USA Today, Robert Biggs, the vice president of the Phi Delta Theta, the average GPA of its members across the country rose from 2.7 to 3.1 (Monir 6). The fraternity has also gained a large number of new members since it declared all of its constituent fraternity houses alcohol free.
In the interview, the vice president also noted that the international fraternity had realized a 65% decrease in the total number of insurance claims made against it. Furthermore, the claims that are being made against the fraternity are smaller compared to those they would receive before the alcohol ban was implemented. He claims that the average insurance claim before the ban would be about $400,000. Currently, the get claims averaging $24,000.
Insurance companies are also favoring houses or fraternities that are alcohol free. Alcohol free houses will help ensure that there is no under-age drinking in such places. The lack of under-age drinking lowers the risks of such houses. Insurance companies have realized the lower risk involved and are always willing to offer lower policies to fraternity houses that become alcohol free. Lower policies mean lower premiums for the houses, a cost-effective measure for the international fraternity and individual houses.
The national fraternities, along with the reduced cost of insurance claims, will also spend less time in court defending the lawsuits against their members. Having an alcohol-free policy reduces the liability of the national fraternity when an incident involving alcohol occurs in one of its chapters or is orchestrated by one of its pledges. The national fraternity can argue that when the incident occurred, it did not allow any alcohol in any of its premises. Thus, it cannot be liable for any damages that may occur in its houses when alcohol is involved.
Others believe that there should be a complete ban on all fraternities on campus. The ban would ensure that the alcohol-fuelled parties are eradicated and that student indulgence in alcohol, unsafe sex, rape, and drug abuse are minimalized. However, some insist that a complete ban of fraternities will not solve the alcohol problem in campus.
The opponents to this suggestion believe that once the fraternities are banned, the students would still find a way to engage in fraternities within and without the institution. Institutions such as Amherst found this out the hard way. A high profile incident involving a fraternity that was formed off-campus resulted in the institution having to ban even the “underground” student organizations (Eastman 17). Now, the school’s rulebook insists that individuals will be suspended or expelled if they are found engaging in on or off campus fraternity activities.
The opponents to the banning of fraternities also believe that such an action would just be pushing the liability to another part of the population. The campus should act like a barrier between the public and the hazardous effects of college drinkers. Banning the fraternities would expose the public to an uncontrollable number of college alcohol abusers. At least in the institution they are not as widespread and can be controlled by campus police.
Also, destructive elements such as alcohol, hazing and sexual abuse are not exclusive to fraternities. Such issues are a headache in all the institutions that offer higher education in the country (Eastman 12). In addition, the professionals opposing such drastic measures believe that a ban of fraternities would cut off needy students from beneficial aid granted by faculty and university staff members.
Other campuses view the answer to the problem of alcohol use in fraternities as changing the cultures of the fraternities rather than demolishing them. The proponents of this school of thought argue that the problem with fraternities is the social norms that guide them into behaving the way they do. The norms urge men in groups to behave in certain ways that they would not if they were alone rather than in a group.
That is why institutions such as Wesleyan University have re-modeled their fraternities. The institution now requires all the fraternities in the school to become co-ed. Wesleyan University implemented this policy after a student was injured from falling from a third story window in a fraternity house in 2014. Trinity College also mandated that all the fraternities and sororities become co-ed.
However, such institutions are facing resistance from the people they are trying to protect. A fraternity is suing Wesleyan University due to the implementation of the co-ed policy. The fraternity issued an injunction after it realized that the school would not be offering single-sex housing for older years as the institution requires that all undergraduates live on-campus.
Regardless of the direction that the University of Alabama wishes to take on the matter, one thing is clear. The institution, like so many others, is failing in its prerogative to uphold a culture of high morals and intellect by refusing to disclose the full extent of the fraternity misconduct cases on campus. Once all the relevant information is disclosed, it will become easier to manage the situation. With proper information, the institution can choose the correct tools that it can use to solve the problem of alcohol abuse in its fraternity houses.
Furthermore, the current system of allowing the fraternity houses to manage themselves should be abolished. Adult supervision of all fraternal activities needs to be instituted immediately for all the fraternal houses in the university. Management of this sort will ensure that the fraternity students are disciplined, do not engage in excessive alcohol consumption, and do not participate in sexual assault incidences. Until the fraternities can prove they are safe and can manage their affairs without grievous harm to themselves and to others, they should not be able to run independent of adult supervision.
Denizet-Lewis, Benoit. “Ban of Brothers.” The New York Times Magazine. 9 Jan 2005. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.
Eastman, Peggy. “The Student Perspective on College Drinking.” College Drinking-Changing the Culture. 2002. Web. 15 Apr 2016.
Monir, Malak. “Ban alcohol? How to deal with fraternity misconduct”. USAToday. 10 Apr.2015. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.
Wechsler, Henry and Nelson Toben. “What we have learned from the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study: Focusing attention on college student alcohol consumption and the environmental conditions that promote it. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 69.4: 481-90. Web. 15 Apr.2016.
Whipple, Edward. “Alcohol-free housing: Does it make a Difference?” The Standard for brotherhood, Phi Delta Theta International. 2007. Web.