Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing is debatable, but alcohol often fuels the social culture here at Lehigh. Recently, changes have been made to allow student organizations to provide alcohol at on-campus events in order to provide an alternative to off-campus parties. However, one of the major social organizations on campus, Panhellenic sororities, still technically can’t hold events with alcohol.
The National Panhellenic Council’s bylaws mandate that chapters cannot hold events with alcohol or have alcohol in their houses, even if the member is of legal drinking age. I find that these rules are inherently and internally misogynistic and hurt the way social events work at Lehigh.
Not allowing sorority women living in their house who are over 21 to have alcohol may seem like a good rule from a liability standpoint, but it just isn’t fair when you consider that non-Greek members living in residence halls and fraternity members living in a house that are over 21 can have alcohol in their rooms. The rule is a sexist legacy from over 100 years ago when the National Panhellenic Council was founded and the notions of women’s place on college campuses was much different. While it may have made sense given the values of the time to prohibit women from handling alcohol in the early 1900s, modern women can handle the responsibility of having alcohol and should have equal privileges that their male counterparts in fraternities have.
The inability of Panhellenic sororities to host events with alcohol is a product of this old-fashioned rule, and I believe it hurts the social culture at Lehigh.
Under the current system, fraternities are allowed to use house funds to host events with alcohol, while sororities can’t. Because of this, social events are often hosted by a fraternity and usually one sorority is invited.
This system poses a number of problems. One is that by fraternities being the sole hosts of social events, there is an imbalance of power in which the fraternities have more control over social structure than sororities do. They are in charge of the venue, the amount of alcohol provided and the overall atmosphere of an event — whether it be welcoming or uncomfortable. By having this system in place, sorority women are more vulnerable than if they could have their own social events.
Since only the fraternities host the social events, they are free to do things like enforce a certain ratio of women to men allowed in social events. To me, this unofficial policy seems as though it’s intended to ensure the majority of people who consume the organization’s alcohol are women.
According to a 2000 U.S. Justice Department report, approximately 20 to 25 percent college women will be victim to completed or attempted rape during their time at college. Additionally, a 2004 report in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol stated about half of all sorority women experience some form of sexual assault or rape during college. Considering these statistics, it’s my belief that if sorority women could host their own social events equally as often as fraternities, they would be safer at social events.
Oftentimes, under the current system of social events, it feels as if by having only fraternities pay for alcohol, sororities may feel pressured to compensate with event attendance, hooking up and ensuring a fun atmosphere with ready-to-party demeanors. Sorority women might feel more comfortable if social events were hosted on their own property and conditions.
Another problem that results from sororities being unable to hold social events with alcohol is that social events become more exclusive. When fraternities hold social events, they usually invite one sorority. Because things like the “ratio” are in place, usually non-Greek women or women from other sororities can attend the event, but men, both non-Greek and from other fraternities, are excluded. If sororities were able to hold their own social events with alcohol, then there’s a chance the social climate at Lehigh would open up. If social events could be held between different sororities or between sororities and non-Greek clubs or organizations, it would help promote Greek and campus-wide unity.
I definitely think it would be a step in the right direction if the National Panhellenic Council changed their policies on alcohol. I think the best way to move forward would be to try allowing sororities to have alcohol at social events at one or two colleges in different regions across the U.S. If these tests schools are successful, I believe the alcohol restrictions should be removed.
Colleges everywhere faced a similar decision when deciding whether or not to allow women to enroll. Lehigh also made a similar choice when we decided to allow sororities to live on the Hill. Through the same process of removing out of date restrictions on women that aren’t applicable to current times, we can make the social culture much more equal and fair and promote Greek and campus-wide unity.