College campuses slowly are realizing that fraternity- and sorority-related hazing and binge drinking aren’t all Animal House hilarity. The widely read account of the fraternity hazing ritual that led to the death of a Penn State student last year was an eye-opener for many—though not those of us who saw varying degrees of this behavior during our own time at college.
It seems some universities are finally getting serious about cracking down on dangerous drinking in the Greek system, with Florida International University going so far as to ban alcohol from all fraternity and sorority events for the rest of the school year. The New York Post reports the university’s president issued a statement this week outlining a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol at the school’s 16 Greek chapters. It followed a brief suspension of all Greek life on campus, which has since been reinstated. Of course, it took a tragedy like last month’s alcohol-induced death of a student at another college, 20-year-old Florida State University student Andrew Coffey, to bring about the new no-alcohol rules.
That the ban will completely eradicate binge-drinking at Greek events is, of course, unlikely. Wily college kids have a way of circumventing campus rules. Institutions and their traditions are difficult to change. There exists a world called off-campus. Even if the new rule isn’t perfect, it at least demonstrates that the university is no longer willing to turn a blind eye toward the reckless behavior of some of its members.
Indeed, there are instances of trouble at FIU’s own fraternities; the Miami Herald reports on a scandal involving leaked text messages that showed Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity members were sharing nude pictures of women without their consent, alongside other charming brotherly banter that included “Holocaust memes, jokes about rape and pedophilia, and conversations about drug sales.”
Look, I partied at fraternities during my college years and some of the male students I met from those frats continue to be dear friends. But it’s impossible to read the accounts of hazing rituals and utterly preventable deaths—not to mention the role alcohol plays in campus sexual assault—and not conclude that changes need to be made. Another story: When I was a junior in college, my brother was a freshman at a school multiple states away. I received a panicked phone call from him during a fraternity pledge event late one night in which he told me he was “drunker than he’d ever been in his life” and didn’t know what to do. Then he hung up. I didn’t sleep that night as I frantically tried to call his friends to track down his whereabouts. He ended up in the hospital, though thankfully was discharged after a few IVs set him straight. It was one of the most nerve-wracking nights of my life, and his as well.
I also drank during college and don’t think that alcohol itself is necessarily the culprit here; more so, it’s the culture that mandates near-fatal drinking as an initiation ritual. If FIU’s stance prevents further deaths and damage, hopefully other campuses will take note.