Within two years, the Theta Chi and Delta Sigma Phi fraternity chapters on campus will be alcohol-free, adding to a number of Greek organizations that are making the move to “dry” houses.
In recent years, many national fraternities have taken significant strides toward making all chapters nationwide alcohol-free as a result of insurance liability and the trend of limiting alcohol at fraternity houses.
“It”s a long-term changing of the norm,” said Interfraternity Council President Marc Hustvedt. “Ten years from now there may not be chapter events at any of the houses with alcohol.”
The rise in dry fraternities began in 1997 when the national leadership of Sigma Nu and Phi Delta Theta made the decision to become alcohol-free by 2000.
All chapters of Delta Sigma Phi and Theta Chi are slated to be alcohol-free by 2003.
National Theta Chi Director David Westhall said the decision to make all chapter houses alcohol-free is not to absolve liability in alcohol-related incidents.
“It”s about the changing culture in the chapters,” he said. “We saw the trends of chapter houses and we made a task force of alumni and undergraduates to look at the issue.”
In 1998, national officials from Delta Sigma Phi decided to remove alcohol from its chapter houses by December 10, 2000.
“It”s a better way to manager operations,” said Delta Sigma Phi executive director Jon Hockman.
Adam Small, president of the University”s Delta Sigma Phi chapter, said the action came as a result of low grades among members at other schools around the country in addition to insurance liability issues.
Although the move toward alcohol-free houses has begun on a national level, some local chapters have acted independently of their national organization to institute alcohol-free chapters.
The University”s Lambda Chi Alpha chapter was shut down in 1994 after its board of directors put the fraternity on probation for four months due to its risk-management violations.
“Our guys got out of hand and ruined the house,” said Lambda Chi Alpha President Sachin Master.
The fraternity is reforming this semester and has plans to move back into their house in late 2002. Master said Lambda Chi Alpha members do not foresee any problems with living in an alcohol-free environment.
“We”ve been a dry house since we started up again in the winter of 1998, so the brothers in our house are used to it,” Master said. “It doesn”t take a lot to have an alcohol-free parties in the house, but we still haven”t decided what we”re going to do about holding parties outside the house.”
Like Lambda Chi Alpha, Interfraternity Council members now face the challenge of finding locations for Greek social events. “Ann Arbor isn”t like Wisconsin with 150 bars, so we”re limited to an amount of third-party vendors,” Hustvedt said.
Hustvedt said IFC is in the process of modifying its social policy to support alcohol-free houses. “We”re encouraging houses to use third party vendors and make a conceited effort to move events out of the chapter houses,” he said.
Small said although having parties at other locations is an option for many fraternities, it is too costly for his chapter, which does not receive significant funding from nationals. The chapter”s solution has been to hold fewer parties.
“It”s been a bit of a problem,” Small said. “We just try to limit our alcohol completely. Sometimes it”s hard to control everyone in the house.”
After the National Panhellenic Conference passed a resolution last year that banned member sororities from co-sponsoring alcohol-related events with fraternities, many sororities chose to go to third-party venues, Hustvedt said. “We are helping them get better bus prices and we are encouraging presidents to start moving towards third-party vendors,” he said.
This change has paved the way for IFC members who have decided to go alcohol-free. “We”ve already seen four times as many party vendors and that”s mostly inspired by sororities and NPC, since sororities can”t sponsor events with alcohol,” Hustvedt said.