Sunday, March 18, 2007


Credit where credit's due

If someone had told us five years ago we would some day write an editorial praising fraternities in Boulder for their maturity, common sense and dedication to their community, we would have laughed out loud. After all, the reputation of some of the fraternities - and by association the entire Greek system - has been marred by everything from loud parties to alcohol-related deaths. For a while there it seemed like the fraternity houses on the Hill had been replaced by Al Qaida training camps.

Times have changed. And the most impressive part of the whole transformation of CU's fraternities from soccer hooligans to respectable young men is they did it on their own, without the help or persuasion of the CU administration. Good for the fraternities, we say, for recognizing their own shortcomings and addressing them before it was too late.

Then, to top it all off, the CU Interfraternity Council's (IFC) executive board announced last month plans for a “Social Moratorium,” a two-week hiatus in partying to aid Boulder's 15 fraternity chapters in an ongoing assessment of their risk management policies.

During the moratorium, which ends today, chapters were prohibited from holding any social events in their houses that involve the use of alcohol, giving them an opportunity to improve their safety and risk management procedures with a particular emphasis on holding safe, controlled social events.

Typically, a university or national fraternity imposes such restrictions on partying only after something terrible happens. But reactionary tactics yield almost no benefits for fraternities or the public. What they do create is more hostility between the university and the frats who have grown tired of being blamed for every little thing that happens to drunken partiers in Boulder.

That attitude reached a fever pitch after CU freshman pledge Lynn “Gordie” Bailey was found dead in the Chi Psi fraternity house on the Hill in September 2004 after a night of initiation that included the consumption of mass quantities of alcohol.

Shortly thereafter, the University demanded that CU fraternities and sororities abandon fall rush. The sororities bowed to the university, but the fraternities refused. In retaliation, the university dissociated itself from all fraternities.

The move to stand up to the university was a smart one. No one, save the family, mourned the death of Bailey more than his fraternity brothers. Punishing the fraternity involved and its members was appropriate, but meddling in the affairs of other fraternities was not.

The unfounded bias against fraternities became even more evident a few months after Bailey's death when another student, 21-year-old Bryan Merritt, was found dead in his dorm room. Even before the facts of the case were clear, fingers were pointed at a fraternity that hosted a party the night before Merritt was found. He had attended the party, but by all accounts was not drunk. Despite the efforts of the fraternity - which checked IDs and had police on hand to administer breathalyzer tests - they were blamed for the death. They were later cleared of any wrongdoing.

The moratorium enacted in February represents a new approach for the Greek community. CU Greek Advocated Marc Stine said, since October, the IFC noticed a trend towards noisier parties. Fraternity-police liaisons, he said, expressed concern about the problem, and the IFC took action. They held a risk management meeting which included fraternity presidents, social chairs, house managers, risk managers, and new member education chairs, who heard presentations from the Boulder Police and Fire Departments, national fraternity legal counsel, specialists in fraternity operations, and IFC officers.

This proactive approach to problem-solving received praise from some university officials as well as police and fire representatives. Boulder's Fire Safety Educator Sherry Kenyon went so far as to call the decision “mature.”Again, not a word we thought we'd ever be using to describe a Boulder fraternity.

The efforts of the IFC to control fraternities and to take the safety and reputation of its members into its own hands has been nothing short of astonishing. It's the kind of thing that used to be expected of Greek organizations.

We think the university should take its lumps, admit the fraternities have done a great job of self-policing, and allow them back on campus.

After all, Boulder fraternities are acting more and more like adults these days. It's time the CU administration did the same.

Marc D. Stine, LLC Greek Advocate @ CU-Boulder 303.841.0132 phn/fax 303.995.1646 cellular
“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance or conscientious stupidity.”
Marc Stine
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