Alcohol control policy proves difficult to monitor, enforce

by Rebecca Czaplewski

Although the University fraternities cracked open a more stringent alcohol policy last spring, changes have proven difficult to enforce.
The policy, enacted last spring by the Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils, states that no fraternities can provide alcohol to their guests at open events. Partiers have to bring their own alcohol to the fraternity and must be on a submitted list. The fraternities also must card at the door to insure that all drinkers are at least 21 years old.
The councils drew up the policy partly in response to several alcohol-related deaths involving fraternity parties at other schools across the country. University fraternity members said they wanted to create a more responsible party environment.
But enforcing the policy has become the major obstacle.
“Underage drinking is hard to control in a college environment,” said Dan Kelly, president of the Interfraternity Council and member of Sigma Phi Epsilon. “I can’t say that it’s totally improving, but it’s getting there.”
Kelly said although the policy has brought alcohol abuse issues to the table, regulating the policy is difficult.
National fraternity chapters have rules against monitoring the parties of other fraternities — like going door-to-door in search of violations.
However, Kelly said one of the primary ways violations are reported is if an officer from another greek house witnesses a violation, although they can’t go to a party with the intent of being a whistleblower.
He said the presence of a greek officer at a party often deters any wrongdoing.
“People understand when an officer is nearby — if we do see something, we’ll bring it up,” Kelly said.
Although there must be at least three sober fraternity members at each party, they are not assigned the job to solely look out for policy violations, said Chris Schwiderski, a Phi Kappa Psi member.
“People are told to watch for it, but no one looks just for (violations). “They’ve got a lot more things to think about during the party,” said Schwiderski of the jobs each member is assigned during the party.
Some underage students can attest to the lax enforcement at parties.
Heather Gunderson, a 19-year-old freshman in the Carlson School of Management, said she’s been to many fraternity parties this year and has never had a problem getting alcohol from the bar.
“Someone else usually goes up for me — I usually go with friends who are in the house or in another fraternity,” Gunderson said.
Another underage student, College of Liberal Arts freshman Becki Renner, said she had never been carded at the four parties she has attended.
“We just go to the parties and find someone in the fraternity to get us beer,” Renner said. “(It is easy) especially if you’re a girl.”
Amelious Whyte, an adviser for student development and athletics at the University, is involved with programs in the greek system and familiar with the fraternity systems’ trials with the policy.
He said there are some major holes in the policy; such as the fact there are no limits to how much alcohol each guest can bring, and the sometimes-lenient attitude with guest lists that admits more people than a fraternity can handle responsibly.
“For me, a party with a case for each person does not foster responsible drinking,” Whyte said.
Although he noted the major problems with the current policy, Whyte said it has increased communication in the greek system about alcohol awareness.
“I think I’d be lying if I said the policy eliminated all the problems, but it makes clear what the expectations are.
“I don’t always have to go to them for something,” he said of his advising duties. “Sometimes it comes the other way.”
For the 1998-99 school year, there have only been two reported violations of the new policy.
When a fraternity is accused of a violation, they go up before the greek system’s judicial board.
The board hears both sides of the story and decides the penalty. Punishments range from hosting an educational program to being excluded from greek events.
“They try to be fair — they’re not out to get people in trouble,” said Adrianne Kriewall, a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority and the alcohol-awareness group Greeks Advocating Mature Management of Alcohol.
Fraternity members acknowledge the problems with the current system and say plans are in motion to fix them.
Michael Stanton, a member of Sigma Chi and vice president of risk management for the fraternity system, said the Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils are looking for ways to better regulate the policy. He cited underage guests getting alcohol from of-age partiers as an example of a needed improvement.
“We have to try and see now how to solve those problems,” Stanton said.
He also added that a policy to limit the amount of alcohol each guest brings into the party as another issue currently being dealt with by the Interfraternity Council.
Kelly noted the college mind-set, which places a high regard for alcohol at social events, as a contributing factor to the enforcement problems.
“It’s hard because alcohol is such a big thing. I wish there was a way we could come in and take care of it,” Kelly said. “It’s getting there.”