Students cite advantages to alcohol-free greek housing

Some fraternity members prefer dry-house living and dispel misconceptions.

Kevin McCahill

A typical night in the chapter house of Alpha Tau Omega plays out like it would in a stereotypical greek house, expect for one major difference.

There’s no alcohol around.

Alpha Tau Omega is one of three fraternities on campus, along with Phi Gamma Delta and FarmHouse, that are alcohol-free, or dry. To some, this is a big difference, but to others, it doesn’t matter at all.

Mike Reynolds, marketing junior and public relations director for Alpha Tau Omega, said he joined the fraternity because he liked the members and the chapter’s philosophy, not because it was wet or dry.

But there are a lot of benefits to living in a dry house, Reynolds said.

“You don’t have to worry about liability,” he said. “You don’t pay as much insurance and the house is nicer.”

Because dry houses typically don’t throw large parties, the houses are in better shape than fraternities that do, Reynolds said.

“There is a notable difference,” he said of house decor. “In some wet houses, it isn’t so pretty.”

Film studies sophomore Tim Moore is president of Phi Gamma Delta, better known as FIJI. He said choosing a dry chapter was important when he was looking for a fraternity.

“It makes a huge difference,” he said. “It means those who join have a reason other than to just drink.”

Although the chapter doesn’t throw parties at its house, that doesn’t mean members of dry fraternities don’t get down on the weekends.

Reynolds said there is a misconception that dry-fraternity brothers don’t do as much socially, something he said isn’t true.

“We do exactly the same thing that all other students do,” he said. “We just don’t drink in our house.”

The reason Alpha Tau Omega is dry comes down to something as simple as a bylaw. In the national fraternity rules, when a chapter reopens after being shut down, it is required to be dry. The University’s chapter was shut down briefly in the early 1990s and was re-chartered in 1998, according to Alpha Tau Omega president and English sophomore Justin Alt.

Overall, being a dry house has saved the chapter from a lot of headaches, Reynolds said.

“Most of the frat-boy issues stem from alcohol,” he said. “Since we don’t have alcohol, we don’t have those bad apples.”

Alt said a lot of alcohol-related incidents have been avoided by not keeping alcohol in the house, and it has an effect on the members in a personal way.

“If we have to leave the house to drink, it may prevent us and keep us home on a Thursday night to study,” he said. “I think it’s reflected on our grades.”

Alt said that because dry houses such as Alpha Tau Omega don’t have parties to draw attention to them, they have to do other things instead.

Alt said they do this by being active in the greek community, especially involving themselves in Spring Jam and Homecoming events.

Dry fraternities might focus more energy on studying, but in terms of grade point averages, dry chapters don’t stand out.

According to chapter GPAs provided by the Interfraternity Council, Beta Theta Pi, a wet house, had the highest average GPA last semester with 3.10. The best dry house GPA was 3.02 for Alpha Tau Omega, which was the fourth best GPA of all

chapters.

The average GPA for wet houses was 2.91, and for dry was 2.95. Only one of the top 10 houses with the highest GPA averages was a dry house.

“At least with our campus, there isn’t a large correlation between joining wet or dry and having it affect your grade,” Interfraternity Council president and electrical engineering senior Alex Vu said.

All sororities but one, Lamda Delta Phi in St. Paul, are dry.

There are some who prefer living in a wet house.

“I like how there is the option, especially for the older guys,” said Sigma Chi president and computer engineering junior David Vanderpool. “It’s an easier way to keep older guys living here.”

Vanderpool said the disadvantages often come down to insurance costs. Vanderpool said at a national level

Sigma Chi has considered becoming dry just to lower the insurance rates, which he didn’t specify.

Jim Griffith, executive director of FarmHouse, said a dry-house policy for all FarmHouse chapters has been in place since 1990. He said this helps students focus on school.

“From an academic standpoint, alcohol-free housing creates a better atmosphere for studying and for top-quality student leaders to live in,” he said.

Griffith said drinking is never allowed in the house, but the chapter is allowed to vote on whether it can have alcohol for off-campus events. Griffith said being dry is a benefit for the chapter.

“With all the potential of drinking and driving, it limits a lot of liability,” he said. “And it decreases the amount of alcohol and binge drinking.”