Sunday, August 24, 2008

San Diego Goes Dry for Five Weeks

SDSU Greeks told to dry out for 5 weeks
Policy prohibits alcohol at sorority, frat parties
By Sherry Saavedra
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

Members of fraternities and sororities returning to San Diego State University for classes will have to liven up their back-to-school bashes in a booze-free manner – at least temporarily.

On the heels of Operation Sudden Fall, SDSU's largest drug bust in university history, fraternities and sororities will be banned from hosting parties with alcohol for five weeks starting tomorrow, about a week before the first day of classes Sept. 2. The ban coincides with a new, five-week period of university-sponsored, alcohol-free weekend night programming, including dances, movies and concerts for all students.

“The highest number of alcohol incidents typically occur within the first few weeks of the semester,” said Doug Case, an SDSU administrator in charge of Greek life. “Many students have freedoms they didn't have in the past. They do a lot of experimentation. We have a lot of issues with new students going to fraternity parties with underage drinking and even more serious situations such as alcohol poisoning.”

Sororities will be less affected by the prohibition because alcohol already is banned in their houses by their national organizations, Case said.

Another new policy bars students from joining a Greek organization if they are on disciplinary probation for offenses ranging from drinking alcohol in the residence halls to drug violations.

To be eligible to join, students also will have to complete the new Pre-Recruitment Educational Program, which involves passing a quiz after viewing a PowerPoint presentation on policies covering alcohol, drugs, hazing and sexual conduct. It also explains the consequences for high-risk behavior such as mixing alcohol with drugs.

“Hopefully we'll get people who understand the true value of fraternities and sororities and are not just looking to party,” Case said.

SDSU officials say they had been looking at ways to strengthen alcohol and drug policies on campus for the past year, and that the drug sting which culminated in May only added urgency to their mission.

As a result of the undercover drug operation, two fraternities, Theta Chi and Phi Kappa Psi, remain on interim suspension. Three fraternities – Lambda Chi Alpha, Delta Sigma Phi and Sigma Pi – were expelled in May for alcohol violations, hazing or both, because of incidents unrelated to Operation Sudden Fall.

About 10 percent of SDSU's 27,771 undergraduate students belonged to Greek organizations last spring. The number of general fraternities has dwindled from 16 to 11 active groups. There are nine culture-based fraternities, though most don't have houses.

Russell Hunter, student president of the Interfraternity Council, said the PowerPoint presentation is a good idea, but the jury is still out on the temporary alcohol ban.

“I'm kind of waiting to see the reaction of everybody else when they get back to school,” Hunter said. “I'm sure some people won't be happy with it.”

Kevin Longeuay, president of Sigma Phi Epsilon, said alcohol already is prohibited at fraternity gatherings during rush, which runs from Sept. 14 through Sept. 18 for general fraternities and Sept. 19 through Sept. 26 for culturally-based ones. But he thinks the five-week ban is a good idea.

“That's when all the freshmen are out trying to get into different parties,” Longeuay said. “This is a great way to stop that image from being portrayed.”

Longeuay said he is behind the PowerPoint presentation and quiz, even though the extra step to joining a fraternity or sorority may deter some.

“If they get deterred, we might not want them in the Greek system,” he said.