In Sigma Phi Epsilon’s 1st year back on campus, house declares itself alcohol-free
To some, the word symbolizes brotherhood, scholarship and philanthropy; to others, it connotes partying, hazing and getting free alcohol.
But this year, Sigma Phi Epsilon wants to break the second stereotype.
For its first year as an on-campus fraternity, the house has declared itself alcohol-free, even though anyone familiar with IU’s dry-campus policy might find this redundant since all fraternities are supposed to be dry.
U does not allow possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages in undergraduate supervised housing, said Dean of Students Dick McKaig .
Dan Eardley, Interfraternity Council vice president of communications, said all greek houses should follow this policy.“Technically, all of them are dry houses,” Eardley said. “Anyone declaring themselves dry are just reinforcing the policy.”
Junior Tyler Coward, the Sigma Phi Epsilon public relations chairman, said the house still wanted to implement the policy to educate its members.“We are trying to work with the University to become a residential living-learning center,” Coward said.
“We are living in the house for education. You can choose to party elsewhere.”
Coward said the house has a zero-tolerance policy, based on the honor system whether a brother has alcohol or not.“We have a policy that if a person has alcohol, he has 15 days to leave the house, and he will be expelled from the fraternity,” Coward said.
Sigma Phi Epsilon has strict rules about drinking in the house, but not all fraternities do.
McKaig said having a rule does not necessarily mean it is followed.“I sit in the Dean’s office and say ‘You can’t possess or consume alcoholic beverages in a residence hall,’ and any student could say ‘I’ve seen it happen,’” McKaig said.
“It doesn’t mean that the policy isn’t the policy, and it doesn’t mean the practice isn’t the practice.”McKaig said even with the dry-campus policy, there could be upwards of 1,000 students during one year written up by residence assistants for alcohol.
But, just like any rule that is broken, there is a punishment.“When students are caught not abiding by policy, there are consequences, and when fraternities are caught not abiding by policy, there are consequences,” McKaig said.
McKaig also said the University cannot control fraternities in the same way it can monitor residence halls.“We have no RAs in the fraternity system, we don’t own the fraternity houses and we don’t own the property the fraternity houses are sitting on,” McKaig said.
“I think a lot of the control rests with the house corporation board, which owns the property and is legally liable for what happens on that property.”But while the University uses its dry-campus policy to enforce an alcohol-free campus, there are some exceptions to the rule.
“The same code that says IU doesn’t allow possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages in undergraduate supervised housing goes on to say unless approval is granted through the Dean,” McKaig said.
One example is a “Bring Your Own Beer” event Phi Kappa Psi held in October 2006. Spencer Smith, a junior and current Phi Kappa Psi president, said McKaig and the fraternity’s national board approved the party as long as the house followed requirements, including checking IDs at the door, putting wristbands on guests older than 21 and limiting the amount of alcohol per person.
Phi Kappa Psi has not had a BYOB party since the one in 2006, but Smith said the party was an effort to promote responsible drinking on campus.“I think it’s a step toward accountability,” Smith said. “This is how you need to follow the rules to make sure people are drinking safely.”
McKaig said the exceptions to the dry-campus policy also apply to certain on-campus housing, such as apartments, graduate housing and upperclassmen housing in Willkie Residential Center, where residents older than 21 can drink in their rooms.
Even with guidelines about where students older than 21 can and cannot drink, McKaig said the University could do better with enforcing the dry policy in fraternities.
“Given the context of the housing, given the context of staffing, I think we do a reasonable job,” McKaig said. “We could certainly do more if we had more resources.”
But whether fraternities on campus are dry, damp or wet, McKaig said he is happy with Sigma Phi Epsilon’s approach to the issue.“I admire them for taking the stance,” McKaig said. “It is where I think all of our fraternities need to be.”