Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dartmouth Looks to UNH for Alcohol Rules

UNH sets example for policy change
By Ryan Kim

Before the University of New Hampshire’s chapter of Zeta Chi Beta fraternity was charged for providing alcohol to underage students in 1993, Greek life at the University of New Hampshire more closely resembled Dartmouth’s Greek scene, according to several UNH students contacted by The Dartmouth. The resulting changes in the social scene at UNH could be an indication of changes that Dartmouth students would face if the Hanover Police Department’s proposed alcohol law compliance checks are implemented, several Dartmouth students said.

In a Feb. 4 meeting with students, Hanover Police Chief Nicholas Giaccone announced plans to implement alcohol law compliance checks in College Greek organizations. Officials with Hanover Police cited a New Hampshire Supreme Court decision involving the fraternity as precedent for imposing felony-level fines of up to $100,000 on Greek organizations for serving alcohol to minors.

In “The State of New Hampshire vs. Zeta Chi Beta,” the Court classified the fraternity as a corporation, making it subject to felony charges for serving alcohol to underage individuals. The Court upheld Zeta Chi’s sentence, which included two years of probation that made the physical plant subject to unannounced searches by the N.H. Department of Corrections to determine compliance with state alcohol law.

Partly as a result of the decision, the fraternity lost recognition from UNH, according to the UNH Greek Life web site.

Giaccone announced Wednesday that implementation of the policy would be delayed, in order to allow the College and student groups to formulate a plan to reduce student alcohol abuse.

After the Court rendered its decision, the Greek system at UNH closed its doors, according to Benjamin Coleman, president of the UNH chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. Many of the fraternities, concerned about sizable fines, began to host invitation-only parties.

While the number of alcohol related arrests have remained the same, the number of arrests involving fraternities has diminished, according to Coleman. Rather, there has been an increase in arrests involving private parties both on and off campus.

“I think that there’s been an increase in the number of private parties because it’s harder for underage students to get alcohol at [fraternities,]” Coleman said. “A lot of these arrests now are coming from room parties.”

Opponents of the Hanover Police policy have argued that, by cracking down on alcohol consumption at fraternity and sorority events, police will force students to drink elsewhere and to drink hard liquor, as opposed to beer. As such, they argue, the policy would have a negative effect on student health and could exacerbate student drinking.

Most fraternities continue to operate under strict alcohol policies. Fraternities cannot serve alcohol and parties have a mandated bring-your-own alcohol policy, according to Matt Steckowych, a junior at UNH and secretary of the UNH chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.

“I can’t remember the last time I could walk into a [fraternity] and see a keg in the corner,” Steckowych said.

Greek policy at UNH mandates that each guest can bring only one six-pack of beer per night, that each guest over the age of 21 must wear a wristband at parties and that fraternities must have four sober monitors at every party, Steckowych said. Each year has brought stricter limitations, he added.

Steckowych said that the social scene at UNH is more exclusive now than it was during his freshman year, adding that most registered parties held by Greek organizations have guest lists.

The Greek system at UNH has mostly adhered to the alcohol policies, according to Coleman.

“We’ve actively attempted to change the social policy for all Greek houses holding social events to keep them closed, and for all houses that register for parties to submit a guest list,” Coleman said.

The strict alcohol policies have limited social options for students, particularly for freshmen, according to Ryan Garbe, treasurer of the UNH chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha.

“It isn’t too hard to get on the lists for the parties here, but again, there is a list,” Garbe said. “Since it’s hard to get on every guest list, a lot of the freshmen just stick to one or two frats.”

The Dartmouth Greek system currently has an open-door policy for all students. Students have expressed concern that, were Hanover Police to implement alcohol law compliance checks, Greek organizations would begin to close events to outsiders.

Although fraternities at UNH have been threatened with heavy fines or prosecution, fraternities at colleges and universities elsewhere in New Hampshire have not been involved in major cases in which they faced serious fines or felony charges for serving alcohol to minors.
Dartmouth fraternity members have said that they plan to be cautious about who they admit to future parties.

“It’s been said before, but if this process ends up going through, it’s going to drive drinking into dorm rooms and other decentralized places,” Matt Applegate ’10, a member of Alpha Chi Alpha fraternity, said.

Greek organizations at Dartmouth may have to enact policies similar to those found at UNH if the sting operations do become a reality, according to Zachary Gottlieb ’10, president of the Interfraternity Council and social chair of Kappa Kappa Kappa fraternity.

Gottlieb is a member of The Dartmouth Staff.

Gottlieb said he is optimistic that Dartmouth’s Greek scene will not be similarly affected, given the indefinite delay on Hanover Police’s implementation of the compliance check policy.

“The ball’s in our court to make the [fraternity] system a safer environment, and we hope to show that we can achieve this without this new alcohol policy,” Gottlieb said.