In an effort to manage safety hazards and underage drinking so common in Emory’s fraternities, the University has begun a campaign to reinforce a number of the housing regulations that have typically been ignored in fraternity and sorority residences. The most notable of these regulations is a ban on “activities (e.g. drinking games) and paraphernalia (i.e. funnels, beer pong tables and ice slides) that promote the rapid and unsafe consumption of alcohol” and drinking in common areas of the house outside of registered parties. To better enforce these policies, the University has instated a system of walkthroughs in fraternity and sorority lodges. Last year, these walkthroughs were conducted on the more popular party nights of the week – Thursday, Friday and Saturday – but the walkthroughs are now being conducted every night of the week between the hours of 9 p.m. and 2 a.m.
As in the past, drinking in the common area of a Greek residence is prohibited for people of any age, except on the occasion of a party that has been registered with the University. Previous regulations dictated that partygoers could bring up to six beers to a party, which would be given in to a “beer check staffed by two substance-free initiated active chapter members.” People of legal age could obtain a wristband for beer by providing proper identification and swiping their Emory Card at the door. Greek organizations were also required to create and enforce a guest list for each party. This year, every student attending a registered party will be required to swipe their Emory Card before entering, enabling the host organization to create an after-the-fact “guest list” of who attended the party. There is no restriction on who may enter a party, a rule that the University believes fits better with its image of the Emory community. Partygoers who wish to drink will still be required to verify their age.
In recent years, the University has had an obvious focus on bringing stronger regulations to Greek Life parties and social events, especially in the light of recent hazing scandals and reports of sexual assaults near fraternity houses. Some angry members of Greek Life might accuse the University of an encroachment on the personal freedoms of their community spaces and a general Scrooge-like attitude of fun-hating, but the true purpose of these policies, and the University’s renewed effort to reinforce them, is to reduce instances where sexual assaults, hazing and dangerous underage drinking can happen Greek residences. Emory has a responsibility to regulate its campus, especially when incidences of all three issues have become increasingly prevalent over the past few years. However, members of Emory’s Greek community, especially fraternities, have expressed dissatisfaction with the University’s new walkthrough policy – indeed, with many of the University’s regulations – as they feel it violates their sense of ownership towards their fraternity houses.
The problem with this attitude is that no fraternity owns its house. In fact, the University owns all the fraternity houses, and residents are required to sign a contract agreeing to the University’s housing policies. In return, residents live in beautiful houses with the other members of their organization. Fraternity houses are, by this logic, no more than glorified residence halls, and Greek Life members choose to live in those houses – and under the University’s policies – instead of living off-campus. Accordingly, we at the Wheel believe that it is fair and reasonable for the University to expect Greek Life residents to play by its rules and to take the measures necessary to enforce these rules. Greek Life does not acquire exemption from the rules of other residence halls just from its status as a community-oriented house, and the University does not owe Greek Life these privileges – especially as it mainly functions as a social organization on this campus.
However, we do not believe that Emory’s policy of walkthroughs – be they every night or only on weekends – is an effective deterrent to unregistered partying and underage drinking. Undocumented festivities continue in spite of the walkthroughs and students continue to require emergency medical attention as a result of excessive drug and alcohol consumption. Instead, the walkthroughs have been seen as an affront to fraternities’ ability to regulate their own houses and even Greek Life in general, prompting them to find loopholes in, or even deliberately ignore, the University’s policies.
As a further negative consequence of Emory’s redoubled enforcement efforts, we believe an increasing number of parties will be held at off-campus residences, where residents are not required to abide by University rules and where, to a much greater extent than in fraternity houses, anything goes. In some cases, transferring Emory’s social life off-campus may be even more dangerous for underage drinking and may increase the likelihood of drunk driving.
We interpret the relationship between the Emory administration and the Greek community as one between a parent and its child. The child is granted certain privileges but, in return, the parent requires that the child follow certain rules and behave in a certain way. Greek Life wants the ability to regulate and provide its own security but has demonstrated (as evidenced by alcohol-related emergencies on campus and sexual assaults in fraternities) that it is incapable of doing so. Simply put, Emory fraternities have not proved themselves worthy of the University’s trust and should not be entitled to freedom from walkthroughs.
Ultimately, we believe that the walkthroughs are a just attempt by the University to regulate what it perceives as a safety concern, but we at the Wheel believe that further cooperation and understanding between the University and the Greek community can resolve this issue to the satisfaction of both parties. The University should make greater efforts to connect with fraternities and sororities so that Greek Life feels its perspectives are being validated. However, Greek organizations must understand that the privileges they enjoy come with certain expectations, and that they cannot be granted the responsibility of self-rule until these expectations have been met and its culture has been changed into one that is safer for all. We believe that, by working together, Emory and its Greek community can achieve the kind of security the University requires while still having all the fun that Greeks desire.
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel‘s editorial board.