Sunday, November 21, 2010

U Minn. Fraternities Partially Lift Their Alcohol Ban

U fraternities partially lift their alcohol ban

Big events will still be dry, in response to reports of sexual assaults at three fraternity houses.

By BILL McAULIFFE, Star Tribune

Fraternities at the University of Minnesota will allow alcohol at parties, partially lifting a six-week ban that followed three alleged sexual assaults in three fraternity houses.

The easing of the ban comes with new regulations and enforcement strategies drawn up in recent weeks by fraternity oversight groups and university officials. They include an ongoing total ban on hard liquor in frat houses.

"We'd like to think that all the measures we've taken so far in terms of educating our members and new controls will ensure a safe environment for our guests," said Martin Chorzempa, president of the U's Interfraternity Council.

Fraternities will be allowed to have beer and wine for members and at parties limited to one guest per member. All alcohol will still be banned at parties with larger guest lists. Backpacks, cinch bags and unsealed bottles -- including commercial water bottles -- will also be banned, and alcohol won't be allowed beyond common areas.

The regulations will be enforced by volunteer monitors from other fraternity houses. Violations will bring "steep fines," Chorzempa said, along with the risk of other sanctions by the Interfraternity Council and possibly the university.

Chad Ellsworth, program director for the university's Office for Fraternity and Sorority Life, said training of the monitors will be a critical factor in whether the measures work.

Delta Kappa Epsilon and Chi Psi Lodge, where sexual assaults were reported in September, have been suspended from the council, meaning they will no longer be part of Greek system social activities, recruiting or community service efforts.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis police have taken DNA samples from a suspect in one of the assaults. According to a search warrant, the man told members of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity that he had had sex with a sorority member who told police she had three drinks and was drugged and sexually assaulted at a party Sept. 30.

The man has not been charged, and that incident is under investigation by police as well as by the Interfraternity Council.

Fraternities and sororities at the university are independent, off-campus organizations, meaning the university has relatively little oversight over them, said Amelious Whyte, chief of staff to the vice provost for student affairs. In the Big Ten, only Northwestern University owns its frat houses and establishes rules. (Iowa and Nebraska, which will join the Big Ten next year, don't allow alcohol in frat houses.) But Whyte said that incidents involving law violations, such as underage drinking, would violate the student code of conduct and expose individual students to disciplinary action by the U.

"It's a challenge to go after a chapter for sexual assault, unless it [can be proven that it] facilitated an environment that led to it," Whyte added.

He said the U was primarily interested in making sure the monitoring and enforcement strategy works. If problems persist, he said, the U would contact the national chapters that directly govern the houses.

The Interfraternity Council is still working on standards that would allow alcohol at larger gatherings.

"They're committed to creating something, and we're very supportive of that effort," Whyte said.

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