As recruitment season begins for Fresno State’s Greek community, some fraternities are grappling with a new rule that bans hard alcohol at their chapters.
The North-American Interfraternity Conference announced Tuesday that it will prohibit hard alcohol at chapter facilities and events, giving members until 2019 to implement the regulation.
“At their core, fraternities are about brotherhood, personal development and providing a community of support. Alcohol abuse and its serious consequences endanger this very purpose,” said NIC president and CEO Judson Horras in a news release.
The university has seen a few alcohol- and drug-related deaths at its Greek organizations in the last decade, including one this year when a non-member overdosed on drugs at the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity house. Delta Sigma Phi is a member of NIC. Members of the chapter declined to comment for this story.
In a 2012 incident at Fresno State, an 18-year-old pledge died after drinking 37 shots of hard liquor at a party. Fresno State revoked Theta Chi’s charter following the death and two brothers served jail sentences for negligence.
Breanne Scogin, senior program coordinator for fraternity and sorority life at the university, said that when national organizations hand down new regulations, it’s her office’s job to help the chapters understand and implement the rules. But the university also has to weigh the fact that its students are young adults testing out their independence.
“When they want to plan an event, we ask, ‘How can we do this safely?’ ” Scogin said. “We want to teach them to be responsible and encourage them to be accountable for their own actions, and how those actions affect others.
“They want to be self-governing when it benefits them, but they also have to be self-governing during the hard times,” she said.
Greek housing at Fresno State is independently owned and operated, limiting what kinds of rules the university can impose, Scogin said. But Greek members who commit serious violations are subject to university discipline or losing their charter.
Scogin said she thinks that the Greek community’s reputation for hard partying may be becoming a thing of the past.
“Alcohol is a part of college life,” Scogin said. “But often the microscope is on them because they all belong to one organization.”
The policy is not entirely new, according to Scogin. Some chapters and governing organizations have already banned liquor. Those that haven’t and are part of NIC are now being caught up.
The university’s alcohol policy also says that only the Fresno State Association and Ag Foundations can “sell, serve and pour alcoholic beverages on University property.” Alcohol at off-campus events is “strongly discouraged.”
In a press release, the Distilled Spirits Council said the ban singling out hard liquor and excluding beer and wine was “misguided and not supported by science.”
“We share the commitment demonstrated by college administrators and fraternities to address alcohol abuse on campus,” the release said. “College students of legal drinking age must recognize that all forms of alcohol can and should be consumed responsibly, and that the consequences of alcohol abuse are attributable to the consumption pattern, not the type of alcohol consumed.”
Panhellenic Association president Michaela Vindel said that although the association bans alcohol at its own chapters, its members are at risk when they visit other organizations.
Losing their charter is another major fear, she said, and some pledges do come in with a stereotypical sense of what sorority life is like.
“We try and keep our girls safe,” she said. “When partying comes up during rush, we try to refocus that person on sisterhood or service or school instead. We’re all Fresno State students first.”