UMN fraternities wrestle with hard alcohol ban, question enforcement

Two years after a ban of hard alcohol in some frats near the University of Minnesota, many have raised questions about its enforcement and efficacy.

Illustration by Hailee Schievelbein

Illustration by Hailee Schievelbein

Parker Toyne

Nearly two years after the majority of University of Minnesota fraternities banned hard alcohol, some question how the policy is enforced.

In 2018, fraternities part of the North American Interfraternity Conference, which includes the majority of University fraternities, implemented a ban on all alcohol with an alcohol by volume of 15 percent or higher from all chapter parties and events. 

Following multiple publicized deaths of fraternity pledges around the country, the conference’s more than 6,100 chapters on 800 campuses were forced to re-examine their relationship with hard alcohol. According to the NIC, 90 percent of all students living in fraternity houses are under 21. 

Here on the University campus, there are conflicting views on the ban’s efficacy and questions about how it is actually enforced. Many fraternity members and presidents stand by their claims of upholding the ban, applauding its ability to maintain safe environments at all fraternity-sponsored events, which is done through self-monitoring and the use of “sober monitors.”

But others say the ban is not enforced at all.

For NIC-affiliated fraternities on campus, the repercussions of not abiding by the ban range anywhere from not being able to host events to being barred from recruiting new pledges. Tau Kappa Epsilon, Kappa Sigma and Phi Delta Theta are the only fraternities at the University that are not affected by the ban.

For fraternity member Jackie Tan, the ban has done a good job of maintaining order.

“It has mitigated a lot of people from binge-drinking on hard-alcohol, at least in my own chapter,” Tan said, adding that reducing binge-drinking hard alcohol at parties has been a priority for his chapter.

Yet, the presence of hard alcohol is known by many who throw and attend fraternity parties. The ban may be efficient in keeping outside alcohol out of the events, but when it comes to the consumption of hard alcohol by certain chapter members themselves, the difficulty lies in enacting measures to not get caught.

“We do take some measures to make sure we don’t get caught, that’s the biggest thing,” said a University fraternity member who prefers to remain anonymous and not name his chapter in fear of repercussions for himself or his fraternity.

However, many fraternities self-enforce their own alcohol policy and hide hard alcohol from those who oversee the ban, the fraternity member said.

“We definitely haven’t enforced it at all. We don’t go out of our way to confiscate it from people who have it in the house,” the University fraternity member said.

Current IFC President Andrew LaFortune acknowledged alcohol is prevalent at many parties, and the ban’s current enforcement lacks practicality. 

“You can’t really limit every single thing. The purpose of it is to make it less prevalent as much as you can,” LaFortune said.

Conor Hogan, the current President of Phi Gamma Delta, said his fraternity members know not to have hard alcohol, and have sober monitors at every party. The monitors ensure that no outside hard alcohol is brought onto the premises by anyone seeking to attend.

“If we see any hard alcohol at our parties we take it, dump it out outside or take it away. For the people that bring it in we kick them out usually,” Hogan said. He said he thinks the ban is well enforced and respected.

LaFortune stated that there is an open line of communication between chapter presidents and the IFC and that moving forward steps will be taken to better enforce the ban. 

“Something that a couple of the chapter presidents have talked to me about is how to go about actually enforcing it. We want to create an environment where it is not readily available to everybody,” LaFortune said.