Greek houses should be dry

By By Alicia Williams

By Alicia Williams

In this age of advanced technology and enlightenment, it’s sad to hear of a senseless, preventable death. A Utah State University freshman, 18-year-old Michael Stark, died of alcohol poisoning early the morning of Nov. 21 after a night of drinking with members of next-door sorority Chi Omega as his “reward” as a Sigma Nu fraternity pledge.

Fraternities and sororities have a notoriously long history of alcohol abuse. A 2002 Journal of American College Health study found that fraternity and sorority members drink far greater amounts of alcohol more frequently than other students on the same campuses.

The study reviewed four Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol studies, which showed 86 percent of greek students drank alcohol and 83 percent said they considered drinking as the central part of the social life of fraternities. The study concluded fraternities and sororities are a high-risk population for alcohol abuse and its consequences.

College students are already at a high risk for harm from alcohol, but as a member of a fraternity those odds are statistically increased.

According to a 2002 report by the Task Force of the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, among college students ages 18 to 24, drinking accounts for 1,700 deaths, 599,000 injuries and 97,000 cases of sexual assault each year.

Institutions of higher education are fully aware of the consequences of high-risk binge drinking by underage students, yet they continue to allow student organizations8212;with mixed-aged members who encourage this illegal environment8212;to operate within the college system.

On Nov. 25, USU President Stan Albrecht announced the indefinite suspension of both Sigma Nu and Chi Omega, but for Stark’s family, this action was a little too late. How many more students have to die before universities require non-drinking or dry policies for all fraternities and sororities with mixed-aged membership?

Higher education cannot continue waiting for the “greek system” to gain a conscience8212;it’s never going to happen. It’s time to prevent deaths, not sit and wait for them. In fact, Sigma Nu declared in 1997 it was going dry by 2000. Instead it beefed up its alcohol education and added an anti-hazing program to limit its liability.

Education is necessary, but lack of it isn’t the problem. The problem is that greeks have a deeply embedded association with alcohol, and underage drinkers know their access to alcohol is easier and often encouraged within the greek system. If the greeks with underage members were not allowed to have alcohol as part of their program, the older members would be forced to go to establishments required by law to monitor and serve alcohol only to adults or to attend parties off campus that have nothing to do with the fraternity.

Without alcohol, fraternities and sororities could actually focus on the main reasons they claim they exist for: mentoring, charitable work, brother and sisterhood and business connections. Let the 21-year-olds drink outside the chapter home just like everyone living in a U dorm, including the family dorms.

We cannot continue to ignore the horrible repercussions of fraternities’ abuse, contribution and distribution of alcohol to its minor members. The U should treat fraternities and sororities just like the dorms, where even the family housing is alcohol-free. Unless every member of the chapter is over the age of 21, there should be no alcohol in those homes and zero tolerance.

[email protected]

Alicia Williams