Fraternities pledging to cut down on alcohol

By Dan Sewell The Associated Press

CINCINNATI – Pledges to Phi Delta Theta held cans of Coca-Cola during rush week, with no kegs in sight. For a date night activity, the fraternity’s University of Cincinnati chapter organized a hayride, not a toga party.

It’s an alcohol-free house, part of an effort by fraternities to battle student binge drinking while cleaning up the image of Greek life.

“There’s not parties going on all the time, people stumbling over themselves,” said Matt Deger, a student leader of the UC chapter.

Oxford-based Phi Delta Theta was one of the first national frats to go dry. But most have resisted outright alcohol bans, contending that drinking socially is part of college and fraternity life and that it’s better to stress education and responsibility.

Out of 70 national fraternities, at least 11 ban alcohol in their campus houses. The Association of Fraternity Advisors says individual chapters in campuses have adopted similar policies, and some 20 percent of fraternity members now live in alcohol-free housing .

Some fraternity houses were forced to go dry because of university bans for all campus housing. About a third of universities and colleges now have such policies to combat problem drinking among students.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says studies link alcohol use to more than 1,700 student deaths a year. Surveys have found that estimates of the number of students who say they have done binge drinking (five or more alcohol drinks in a row for men, four for women) in the prior two weeks have consistently been about 44 percent, despite anti-drinking initiatives.

There have also been crackdowns on alcohol at sporting events, but much of the alcohol abuse has been associated with fraternities and a culture of alcohol-dominated parties and hazing initiations for pledges.

“I think you can probably go to about any large campus with a Greek community and look at discipline issues that have involved fraternities, and probably 99 percent of them are based on alcohol,” said Edward G. Whipple, vice president for student affairs at BGSU.

However, some national fraternities have preferred to stress alcohol education while guarding against underage drinking and alcohol abuse.

“Generally speaking, the approach is self-governance and personal responsibility, as opposed to an outright ban on alcohol,” said Tom Oliver, director of communications for Beta Theta Pi, also Oxford-based. He said 16 of the fraternity’s 122 chapters nationally have alcohol bans.