Banning hard alcohol isn’t enough, fraternities should return to their academic roots

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Courtesy of Sofia Buchler/The Occidental

As a current member of a national sorority, I believe that being part of a Greek organization is not contingent upon one’s ability to drink or party. In fact, being in a Greek organization is a fantastic way to do community service and create lifelong friendships based on common academic and extracurricular interests. The National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) currently enforces an alcohol ban for the 26 national sororities they monitor, but the lack of alcohol or huge parties does not put a damper on activities or the organization as a whole.

The North American Interfraternity Conference (NAIC) passed a new resolution Aug. 27 under its “Health and Safety Standards” prohibiting “alcohol above 15 percent.” Frats are not allowed to offer hard liquor “in any chapter facility or at any chapter event” unless a licensed third-party vendor serves it. Additionally, the NAIC passed three subsequent clauses — Medical Good Samaritan Policy, Baseline Health and Safety Programming and Enhanced Health and Safety Policies (Pilot Program) — in an effort to combat epidemic hazing problems throughout frat houses all over the United States. These clauses help supplement the new alcohol prohibition and provide alcohol education to fraternal chapters.

This hard alcohol ban is a step in the right direction, but it is not drastic enough: the ban should extend to all alcohol. Some may argue that this call to action is unrealistic given the typical “frat bro” stereotype, yet sororities have already done this. Recently, sorority sisters have pointed out the double standard in allowing frats to host parties with alcohol, while sororities lack that right. I agree — equality between sororities and fraternities is essential. One way to make them equal is for fraternities to fully abolish alcohol. As a result, both sororities and fraternities will concentrate on events involving academic discussion and community service.

NAIC’s primary reason for its new clause is that “nearly all hazing and over-consumption deaths in the past two years have involved students consuming high-percentage alcohol beverages.” Every state except for Alaska, Montana, New Mexico, Hawaii, Wyoming and South Dakota has passed legislation against hazing, according to NBC, yet the epidemic continues. Records from hazing expert Hank Nuwer, a journalism professor from Franklin College, state that at least one person from the U.S. or Canada has died per year since 1959 due to a hazing-related incident. In 2017, Time Magazine released an article with the names of the four most well-known hazing deaths that year. Spanning Pennsylvania, Texas, Florida and Louisiana, these deaths marked tragedies within their communities, and their parents formed coalitions to stop the hazing culture within frats. But this culture persists: even with severe legal action, fraternities continue to uphold their “traditions,” which are really just chronic, systematic hazing.

Some fraternity and sorority chapters at Arizona State University have publicly spoken out in favor of the NAIC’s ban. The primary concern amongst these students isn’t about the news from the NAIC, it’s about how the organization plans to enforce it. According to a 2013–2014 report by the NAIC, there are approximately 6,136 fraternity chapters across 800 college campuses in North America under their jurisdiction. When you think about it, it is nearly impossible to keep track of every national fraternity chapter throughout the hundreds of colleges and universities in the United States. So in order for the ban to truly be effective, fraternity brothers need to change their culture and mindset as well as obey the law.

Some may argue that banning hard alcohol, or all alcohol, is too harsh and infringes on the frats’ individual sovereignty. Alcohol and dangerous binge drinking are correlated with fun and brotherhood in pop culture. But historically, the very first fraternities were founded in the 1820s on the premise of having a place “to discuss a greater variety of topics than were offered in the classroom.” When questioning the premise of this ban on hard alcohol in national fraternal organizations, it is important to remember why these organizations were founded in the first place: not for partying, but for academic fellowship.

After the NAIC passed the ban, sororities posted on social media in favor of it. By publicly acknowledging the hazing epidemic and showing support of the new ban, it proves that the Greek community at large upholds a shared mission. Together, fraternities and sororities can socialize through philanthropic or scholarship events, not only through parties and drinking.