Interfraternity Council looks to expand Sober Monitor training

BY NICOLE ABER
Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 12, 2009

The Interfraternity Council is looking to bring a fresh approach to social responsibility through a redesigned Sober Monitor Training Program.

The program will provide members of the Greek community with the skills necessary to hold safer parties and handle alcohol-related situations that may arise at parties. At all fraternity parties a designated number of brothers is required to remain sober throughout the night. IFC president Ari Parritz said a priority of his will be to have most first-year members attend the program so they’ll know what to do when it’s their turn to be a sober monitor.

Planning for the training program, which is a partnership between University Health Services and the IFC, began in 2007. Jose Nunez, then the vice president of social responsibility for IFC, approached UHS Health Educator Patrice Flax about creating such a program, said Mary Jo Desprez, alcohol policy and community initiatives program administrator for University Health Service.

Nunez said the program was developed as a tool to reduce hazards at social events and, as a result, to have less fraternities placed on social probation.

“My focus, throughout my two terms, was to work collaboratively with fraternities in an effort to reduce risk and avoid social probation,” Nunez said in an e-mail interview. “This program was a product of that philosophy.”

In fall 2008, the program was piloted with four training sessions, which included two for the IFC and Panhellenic Association executive boards and two for the pledge classes.

Parritz said it’s important for sober monitors to receive adequate training because the Greek community relies on them to maintain a safe environment at parties.

“My goal for this program is to have every new member — that is, the individuals generally responsible for the operation and conduct of our social events — complete it by February of 2010,” Parritz said in an e-mail interview. “Our community trusts these individuals with the safety and conduct of our social events; as such, they should be trained by professionals, and never be placed in a situation where they are unsure what to do.”

Desprez said there have been three training sessions so far this semester, with each session having between 10 and 40 people in attendance. There are plans to have eight to 12 sessions conducted by the end of the semester, she said.

The training program includes conversations and demonstrations on blood alcohol content, recognizing different levels of intoxication, alcohol-related laws, risk management issues, conflict management skills, and emergency protocol, Desprez said.

Parritz said that so far only members of the IFC and Panhel executive boards have gone through the training. They plan to have first-year members start attending the sessions after spring break. The training program is not a series program, but rather something individuals would go to only once, he said.

In the past, the program was imposed as a sanction for chapters that violated social responsibility policy, said Parritz. But this semester, the program will no longer be used as a requirement for those chapters, but as a recommended educational tool for all chapters.

Desprez said there will be other educational programs designed for chapters that have violated social responsibility policy.

“Our hope is we can get as many people trained and not have people see it as some sort of punishment,” Desprez said. “We would design something different. When we design an educational program based on a sanction we would have it tailored to that particular incident.”

Parritz said the program is not going to be mandated for all Greek members so that it remains something that individual chapters can voluntarily attend.

“To preserve the integrity and genuine interest in the sober monitor training program, we are leaving the decision to the individual chapters as to whether or not they want their new members to participate,” Parritz said.

LSA freshman Michael Wasserman, a member of Delta Tau Delta, attended a training session on Tuesday. He said he thinks the program will be successful in helping the Greek community.

“I think it’s going to be very effective,” Wasserman said. “It’s helpful to know what to do in bad situations and how to assess if it’s something serious.”

Nunez said the program was designed specifically to meet the needs of the University’s Greek community. He added that the program was the first of its kind to be developed at the University or any other institution.

“It isn't a cookie-cutter presentation, or a paid speaker who makes the same presentation at universities across the country,” Nunez said. “It is a program developed by Michigan students and staff, specifically to address the needs of the Michigan Greek community.”

Parritz said the program's goal is ultimately one of long-term value, in which all members of the Greek community will be educated in this area.