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University of Illinois rush and the alcohol debate

The University of Illinois student newspaper takes a sober look at the benefits and responsibilities of fraternities during Rush Week. This is the paper’s followup on the piece written by its reporter who attended what he called beer-soaked recruiting parties. http://www.dailyillini.com/article/2012/09/alcohol-culture-of-rush-week-makes-lasting-impression-on-new-students

Excerpt:

The University is home to the country’s largest Greek system. But having a part in that distinction comes with responsibility. Fraternities should have safeguards in place to ensure that minors don’t drink during Rush Week or at parties.

Not only that, but the University’s Interfraternity Council, the organization that presides over the more than 40 fraternity chapters, states in its policies for the recruitment process that “the only restriction placed on chapters is the restriction of not involving alcohol in ANY recruitment activities.”

But the IFC does not have any restrictions or regulations on placing bids, the invitations for membership to a fraternity, on potential new members.

This muddies the line between simply throwing a party at the beginning of the semester — the time that most fraternities actively seek new members — and recruiting new members.

In some aspects, Greek life comes under attack because it sometimes glorifies underage drinking, breaking laws against it and celebrating the act.

As an institution with an internal government to manage risk, such as those associated with alcohol, it is that much more important to ensure there are written records of what goes largely unreported in campus fraternities.

Notably, underage drinking is not isolated to fraternities. Champaign-Urbana itself has the unusual practice of allowing 19- and 20-year-olds into bars, and it is foolish to assume that all underage bar attendees simply watch their of-age friends drink while they sip soda.

Whether an apartment, residence hall or other residence on campus, you can be confident that beer and liquor will be present.

Unlike the rest of campus, however, fraternities are held to a higher standard by the IFC, and chapters face consequences if found to use improper Rush methods, including serving alcohol to minors.

Fraternities on campus do great things — they fundraise for worthy causes, they provide friends or a home for freshmen trying to find their place at an enormous university, they allow members to assume leadership positions in their fraternity and in the community, and they help alumni in securing jobs and promotions.

Providing alcohol when recruiting new members who are underage serves only to mitigate these positives. That does not mean fraternities should stop having alcohol at their parties — it is unfair to expect a complete ban, but it is expected that alcohol is used responsibly. This does mean, however, that alcohol, should not be such a focus during rush.

The Office of the Dean of Students enumerates a list of values that are supposed to be “inherent” in the Greek system’s mission, which is to facilitate friendship, leadership, scholarship, service and social advancement. Alcohol detracts from these values because the first and, quite often, lasting impression for a non-Greek member or a student seeking entry into the system is not one that emphasizes the positive benefits of a fraternity.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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