On September 4, 2018, the North-American Interfraternity Council placed a national ban on hard alcohol. Lehigh's branch of the IFC placed a similar ban on their chapters on January of 2018. (Photo Illustration by Roshan Giyanani/B&W Staff)

IFC reacts to national fraternity hard alcohol ban

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The North-American Interfraternity Conference released a memo on Sept. 4 banning hard alcohol consumption for all 66 of its member fraternities. 

Lehigh’s Interfraternity Council banned hard alcohol among its member fraternities in January 2017. Considering recent hard alcohol policies implemented at other schools, Jacob Anderson, ‘19, the judicial chair of Lehigh IFC, said he saw the national ban coming.

“IFC is in strong support of this policy,” Anderson said. “It’s along the lines of what we’ve already been trying to do.”

Matt Tracy, ‘19, the president of IFC, said the national ban more specifically states that hard alcohol isn’t allowed in chapter houses, facilities or at events sponsored by fraternities. The only exception to the rule is when licensed outside vendors sell alcohol at events, such as a date parties, provided the chapters’ national policies allow that.

Anderson said the North-American Interfraternity Conference, NIC, has been looking at Greek culture as a whole to reevaluate best practices and determine the role that Greek life should play on college campuses.

That evaluation process involves NIC assessing the most integral parts of fraternities.

“At their core, fraternities are about brotherhood, personal development and providing a community of support,” Judson Horras, the president of NIC, said in a statement. “Alcohol abuse and its serious consequences endanger this very purpose.”

Tracy said the promotion of safe drinking culture is a widespread effort among fraternities, based on conversations he has had with members from other colleges and universities. He thinks fraternities at other schools will follow policies similar to Lehigh’s.

Many Greek-affiliated students have asked Tracy what this ban means for their specific chapters. He said the ban’s impact on individual chapters is still unclear and members need to wait for responses through their fraternities’ national offices.

Anderson said the memo establishes a baseline for hard alcohol use, but chapter-specific changes might be more strict. Now and within the next year, chapters will be in contact with their nationals for more information, he said.

Andrew Fedun, ‘21, said he supports the ban and thinks fraternity policies are headed in the right direction. However, he doesn’t think the ban will be effective at off-campus events and foresees issues if all members of fraternities don’t always follow the rules.

Campuses likely won’t see the impact of these changes until next year. The memo states that changes by individual fraternities on the national level don’t need to be implemented until Sept. 1, 2019.

In the meantime, IFC plans to focus on positive aspects of Greek life. Tracy said IFC wants to focus on more than just social issues now because the fraternities are in a better place than they were last year.

“We’re not really in crisis mode right now,” Tracy said.

Anderson said reshaping IFC’s image on campus will involve highlighting inclusivity of ideas and opinions, meaningful collaboration with other organizations on campus and community engagement with South Bethlehem and surrounding areas.

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10 Comments

  1. I’m proud of Lehigh’s Interfraternity Council for taking ownership in addressing the risks of binge drinking and for taking a broader view of their responsibility to address social justice and privilege issues within Lehigh’s social culture. For a long time, the IFC was stagnant, reactionary, and adverse to criticism or efforts to improve social culture and high-risk behavior, though I’m optimistic that you will see a different response from general members when attention to these types of issues is given by peer leaders rather than the administration.

  2. This is purely virtue signalling. No one is going to alter their behaviors. Everyone understands the danger of drinking – it’s drilled into our heads from about middle school through freshman year college. No one who drinks to excess cares. People who are not in fraternities also drink hard alcohol. They also throw parties with drugs and drinking. They also play music too loud.

    I have yet to find a person who can tell me why fraternities are to blame when this is a reality that is much larger than just the IFC.

    • I agree with many of your points. Yes, everyone understands the danger of drinking. Yes, those people who drink to excess knowingly disregard those warnings that have been drilled into their head since early teen years. Yes, fraternity men are not the only people who drink hard alcohol or do drugs or play loud music. Anyone who would say otherwise is ignorant.

      However, and this is a big however, I think you’re missing the point of the NIC or Lehigh IFC’s hard alcohol ban. It’s about serving hard alcohol, not necessarily consuming it. I can’t speak for national statistics, but let’s look at Lehigh’s campus: In the spring of 2018, 33.5% of undergraduates were members of Greek organizations. In the spring of 2017, that number was 40.7%. See https://studentaffairs.lehigh.edu/content/reports-statistics. When such a significant portion of the campus is Greek, social life tends to revolve around Greek parties. Not entirely, but a great deal. Athletes and fans socialize with sports teams, bandmates socialize with each other, orientation leaders have their own parties, others post up in Packard Lab and never see the light of day. That’s been the case at Lehigh for many, many years. And that’s fine. But that means that those people or organizations who host the lion’s share of social events where alcohol is present have a greater responsibility to manage the risks that come with drinking. Is it fair? Not at all. In theory, everyone should be responsible for their own alcohol consumption. But that’s not the reality of the situation. Hospital transports and citations involving alcohol at Lehigh skew towards freshmen, particularly freshmen women. In serious hazing cases, such as what happened at Penn State, alcohol almost always plays a dominant role. In both of these cases (hospital transports of freshmen and hazing), the alcohol is more often than not supplied by the fraternities. Again, should there be greater responsibility placed on the person for choosing to drink to excess? Of course. But we can’t ignore the fact that, at a school where Greek organizations hold a significant amount of social capital, those Greek organizations have a responsibility, voluntary or involuntary, to manage what goes on within their houses, and some (not all) fraternities have yet to recognize that reality.

    • Robert F Davenport Jr on

      Not to imply that there is no blame attached to other groups, but in my experience, fraternities have institutionalized drinking to excess, Peer pressure is undoubtedly a major influence in drinking; fraternities create a defined peer group in which initiates are both formally and informally led to conform to certain named or unnamed standards. As an organized group, as opposed to the usual gang of idiots, fraternities have a responsibility. Fair or unfair, the administration has clearly indicated that fraternities have responsibility. There is a difference between responsibility and blame; as more fraternities are banned from campus I would say there are several fraternities who have earned blameworthiness.

  3. Robert F Davenport Jr on

    Just as in the real world you can break all the rules if you don’t get caught; if you act like a jerk you will probably get caught. You can choose to be moderate or sneaky. Theoretically fraternities should be helpful not enabling; as one would want for any university community.

    It is taking another step to attempt to limit dangerous/deadly activities.

  4. I think it’s a smart move to acknowledge the risks and dangers of binge drinking, and to take actions to minimize those risks, however, I don’t know if I agree with a ban on “hard” alcohol. I think it’s time we revisit our 21+ drinking laws in this country, which have create a lot of the legal liability issues which have put immense pressure on fraternities. College students are going to drink alcohol. That much is a fact. By extending these prohibition rules, it further drives a wedge between the students and those who lead and advise them. Instead of teaching these men how to be safe and responsible, how to host events safely, with guest lists, sober monitors, etc. we have to tell them, no, no liquor, no drinking games, no under 21. Seriously, no drinking games? Are you nuts? Beirut is an important cultural tradition. Again, teach responsible drinking and warning signs of when you’ve had too much. Develop a culture among greek members to respect each other and their decisions, to encourage each other to have fun, but not cross the line. “CURRENT STUDENT” is exactly right. This isn’t an IFC / NIC / Greek problem. We just get all the blame.

    • Perhaps you’re right about changing the drinking age from 21 to 18, but the dangers of legal liability are different from the dangers of binge drinking. As Current Student points out, people who choose to drink to excess, by and large, knowingly disregard the health risks and legal risks, both of which they have been made keenly aware of. Changing the drinking age from 21 to 18 isn’t going to curb excessive drinking. Consider Europe where the drinking age is 18 in most countries. The World Health Organization reported European teens ages 15 to 19 tend to report greater levels of binge drinking than American teens. See https://www.vox.com/2016/1/26/10833208/europe-lower-drinking-age. Whether we agree as a society that the drinking age should be lowered form 21 to 18 is an open question, and it’s a question that, honestly, has little to do with the NIC’s decision. The NIC and Lehigh’s Interfraternity Council doesn’t have the authority to lower the drinking age. As you note, all they can do is put in place certain checks to address and lessen the severity of the high risk behavior.

      • Current student on

        If people will do whatever they’re told not to as it seems in the study you reference (lower drinking ages correlate with lower ages people binge drink), maybe no drinking laws? I tend to notice the problems we have most often with society are things that are demonized and not properly introduced in culture (drinking, drugs, and guns). If we as a society made these things more “normalized” then I believe the allure and mysterious draw of them would be at lease decreased.

        • You and Greek Advisor are conflating public policy with NIC policy. You’re arguing over the efficacy of setting the drinking age at 21 or 18 or nothing at all. You should contact your state legislators and get the drinking age lowered or eliminated the same way the City of Bethlehem just decriminalized marijuana. All the power to you. But until then, the law is what the law is.

          However, that’s not the point of the NIC’s decision, evidenced by the fact that it does not discriminate between members of fraternities who are over and under 21. The NIC concluded that serving hard alcohol at social events and integrating hard alcohol into pledging activities creates significant high-risk situations for chapters that have been at the center of a disproportionate number of hospital transports and deaths on college campuses. The NIC is certainly not the only group to come to this realization. However, as a representative body, the NIC has a responsibility to address pervasive issues within the fraternity community. This is a community standards and safety measure; not a legal measure.

  5. Robert F Davenport Jr on

    Good point. Seems like the NIC is reasonably trying to solve a problem that those involved don’t even see as being a problem.

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