Ten proof not fool proof

A lack of incidents on the most recent bid night does not mean the University’s alcohol problems are absolved

New IFC regulations this year prohibited hard liquor during the entirety of rush and restricted the timespan for parties on Boys’ Bid Night. According to Director of Student Health Chris Holstege, the hard liquor ban may have helped decrease the number of alcohol related incidents over the weekend.

Last year, more than 10 students were hospitalized for alcohol-related problems during recruitment. Looking at overall trends, it seems as though that year was an anomaly. But the IFC still instituted new measures to prevent any further incidents.

But focusing on just one celebratory week of one specific community neglects to examine the larger culture of drinking present at the University and many other colleges. Fraternities are not the only organizations whose members have been sent to the hospital during their parties. A notable example is the hospitalization of four members of U-Guides last October.

It is easy to scrutinize — and even criticize — Greek organizations. Their very existence is contingent upon exclusionary processes, and they keep their rituals hidden from the rest of the world. But fraternities and sororities enrich the University, and to only focus on their flaws and indiscretions obscures our vision. We are almost certainly missing information about all University communities — not just the Greek one.

We don’t actually know if the rate of alcohol consumption is much higher in Greek organizations than it is among the general population of the University. Even if it is, it is unclear whether Greek culture fosters such activity, or students who are more inclined to drink in the first place are also more inclined to pledge. Both factors could multiply together to produce the results. Additionally, if we are only measuring by the number of hospitalizations, we likely do not get an accurate picture. There have undoubtedly been incidents when a person was intoxicated enough for an ambulance to be called, but it was not. We don’t know about these situations, and even if we do hear rumors, the incidence is hard to quantify.

Because the IFC has the power to establish and enforce regulations in order to prevent serious injuries from occurring, Greek organizations may even be less likely than other CIOs to experience problems with excessive drinking. Additionally, many individual fraternities or sororities will take their own precautions, like having a mandatory dinner before bid night or assigning an older member to make sure a younger one stays safe. The sense of community that they share perhaps makes them more likely to look after each other.

But still, the IFC’s new precautionary measures were only enacted for this year because of the gross irresponsibility that took place last January. Public scrutiny, punishment or new regulations only happen when the situation becomes bad enough to seriously harm someone, at least in a way that the rest of the community will find out about. Essentially, there is only a change when the damage has already been done.

We need to alter our thinking and focus on preventing these incidents before they happen. A decrease in hospitalizations on bid night should not be taken as an indication that we are out of the woods — that we can just stop here. As Holstege said, “These days there is drinking that goes on every weekend,” not just the first of February.

We must apply a higher level of scrutiny to the University community as a whole. Phrases like, “it’s only alcoholism after college” are casually tossed around far too often. Refraining from seeking medical help for fear of getting in trouble is still a common practice. We need to look not just at specific organizations and specific instances, but to collectively examine our attitudes about drinking and ask ourselves whether or not we are taking its dangers seriously enough. As they say, “It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.” Let’s not wait until it’s too late.

Published February 6, 2014 in Opinion

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