By Juanita Cousins
University of Memphis students (from left) Stephen Driscoll, Brent Ostrom and Trenton Busby put on a skit about the dangers of drinking irresponsibly. The performance was part of a "Risk Management Education Seminar" at The Vue at Poplar Plaza.
Dean of Students Bill Porter said the numbers who attended the seminar were well over the university's requirement that 50 percent of each chapter be present.
University of Memphis Dean of Students Bill Porter speaks during the seminar to promote safety at fraternity and sorority social events.
Students put on a skit addressing alcohol poisoning, underage drinking, driving under the influence, party planning and event advertising. U of M Police Chief Bruce Harbor and attorneys from sororities and fraternities also spoke.
"This is serious business," said Alpha Tau Omega attorney Coble Caperton. "The police take it that way, and so do the lawsuits."
But students also sent text messages, played cell phone games and walked out during the program Monday evening at The Vue at Poplar Plaza.
"This was a complete waste of time and inconsiderate for them to have this seminar off campus when half of us have class or need to be at work," said freshman Josh Akin of Memphis, who reclined on the carpet in the back of the room for most of the session.
In early November, UofM administrators suspended its chapters of Pi Kappa Phi, Kappa Alpha, Sigma Chi, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Sigma Phi Epsilon, Alpha Tau Omega, Phi Gamma Delta, Lambda Chi Alpha, Zeta Beta Tau and Pi Kappa Alpha.
The suspensions prohibited the organizations, all members of the Interfraternity Council, a national umbrella organization, from hosting social activities.
Porter said he became concerned after conversations with fraternity advisers and leaders indicated that fraternities were disregarding IFC and U of M policies for ho1sting socials.
The rules prohibit fraternities from opening their parties to the general public and advertising events at which alcohol will be served and also forbid students to drink alcohol while wearing Greek letters.
"The moratorium is designed to get their attention, and I believe we have," Porter said in an interview. "We're not just talking about parties, but also general conduct of fraternities and situations that could lead to liability, property damage or personal injury."
The suspension was unrelated to the October vandalism of a historically Jewish fraternity house and the arrest of three pledges in connection with the theft of a statue, Porter said.
Josh Crawford, a junior from Germantown, said the seminar was a good "refresher course" for members of his fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi.
National Pan Hellenic Council and Pan Hellenic organizations were not included in the suspension because they have different rules, Porter said.
Each fraternity will be reinstated after its chapter president meets with school officials to discuss his chapter's plan for social events.
-- Juanita Cousins: 529-2594