Daily CalifornianUniversity of California, BerkeleyJuly 18, 2006
UC-Berkeley greek system sees decline in alcohol-related problems
By Ryan Wilcox, Daily Californian
In spring 2005, a rash of alcohol-related incidents -- capped by a night of brawls at a fraternity boat gala and a pledge-hazing with more than 30 airsoft pellets -- pushed university administrators to ban alcohol at all fraternity and sorority social events.
Now, two semesters, three suspended fraternities and one new social code later, students and officials say alcohol management in the greek system has turned a corner, although early data is inconclusive.
The alcohol moratorium, which banned alcohol use at all greek social events, was implemented in April 2005 and repealed last fall.Since then, the number of alcohol-related stops on fraternity and sorority row has dropped from nine in spring 2005 to six last spring, University of California police records show.
"We had a clear reduction in noise complaints and alcohol incidents related to parties," said Campus Police Captain Mitch Celaya. "Self-policing is a positive step. I think it's definitely a positive program."
However, Celaya said part of the reason for the decrease in noise complaints was the movement of some parties from greek houses to apartments and residential neighborhoods."Complaints did increase in those areas," he said.UC police records also show that alcohol-related citations and arrests in the same area actually increased from 10 in 2005 to 19 in 2006.
Despite the statistics, faculty members and students say the nascent social code is showing promise."We have been through rush under the moratorium last fall as well as without it last spring. Everything went very smooth," said Interfraternity Council President Drew Hall.
"Additionally, the university has become more involved and now works together with the greek community in hosting rush events on lower Sproul during welcome week."
Last year's president, Andy Solari, said that alcohol-related problems have tapered off under the new policies.According to Solari, it is now easier and cheaper for greek organizations to throw parties, and there are more realistic deadlines for registering greek-sponsored events.
Panhellenic Council president Nicole Mann said the new code reflects an improved relationship between the university and the greek system."Concerns and opinions of all parties have been weighed equally and then acted upon as a result of the Vice Chancellor's Task Force," she said. "Because the community is actively participating in regulating itself as well as being a part of constantly molding our governing documents, greek members are much more responsive to the rules that are set out."
The new code's edicts include a heightened security presence at parties, registration of all the alcohol to be served, a ban on hard liquor and a ban on serving alcohol to intoxicated attendants.
The negotiations between greek leaders and university officials also led to the formation of Greeks Advocating the Mature Management of Alcohol, a group of fraternity and sorority members who teach alcohol education and enforce the new laws at greek social events.
Despite lingering questions about the long-term impact of the moratorium, students and officials said there have been no major alcohol-related incidents tied to greek social events since the moratorium was lifted.
"Any incidents have been rare and sporadic, and the community has dealt with them through its own judicial committee," said Nikhil Bhagat, the council's vice president for risk management.
"The GAMMA program has been relatively successful thus far."Doug Radtke, a recent graduate and alumnus of the fraternity that was suspended for the spring 2005 hazing incident, also testified to the effectiveness of the new programs."I think it's reduced the number of incidents and put people at unease (about breaking the social code)," Radtke said, noting that in the past, less planning and concern went into throwing fraternity parties.
However, Radtke said the increased awareness of alcohol-related issues may have fallen off in the last several months."I think the problems will come back," he continued. "People always find ways to go around (the policies)."
Last year was not the first time the university changed its policies on alcohol use in the greek community.A 2002 alcohol moratorium on Berkeley's fraternities also forced social code revisions that university officials heralded for their fairness and completeness.
Many agreed the effectiveness of the new social code will become clearer in the fall semester, considered the school's party season.Campus Assistant Director of Greek Life Kerry Fleming said she thinks the new policies will prevail."I feel strongly that as long as our leaders continue to raise their expectations of each other and continue to hold our community to a higher standard, we will continue on a more positive course," she said.
(C) 2006 Daily Californian