by Thomas Jahde, Eminent Archon (Georgia Tech ’19)
When Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity announced the “Next Steps 2018” initiatives in May 2018, there was one component that resonated above all others: starting June 1, any alcohol at Fraternity events involving undergraduates must not exceed 15% ABV. SAE had recognized there were issues and now, many school administrations were expressing concerns about the impact of alcohol on campuses. The Fraternity knew that steps needed to be taken to preempt strong actions by third parties and, primarily, to promote a safer environment for SAE and Greek life as a whole.
At the Georgia Phi chapter located at the Georgia Institute of Technology, our concern focused on how to implement the ban, and, more importantly, how to convince the chapter to accept this new policy. With everyone returning to campus for the fall 2018 semester, our executive council knew there could be some difficulty enforcing the new initiative unless there was buy-in by the chapter members.
Recruitment is in the first week of school at Georgia Tech and the campus is dry. At the conclusion of recruitment, there is “Wet Day” and fraternities are allowed to have social functions with alcohol. This day obviously poses a lot of risks for Greek leaders and for the IFC. In the past, the hype of Wet Day, in combination with young undergrads being exposed to alcohol at college for the first time, had led to numerous incidents, some involving hospital transports and altercations. For example, at one of our events two years ago, a guest arrived already intoxicated from hard alcohol, and immediately displayed behavior toward a female guest at the party which was blatantly inappropriate. When challenged, he proceeded to start a physical altercation with brothers. The police were called and they were able to handle this particular guest, but it was obvious that the entire situation was intensified by his consumption of hard alcohol. Similar incidents were common across the campus.
Georgia Tech and IFC recognized these dangers and proposed a potential solution for this fall’s Wet Day. IFC and chapter presidents voted to make this year’s Wet Day hard alcohol-free, in essence adopting the same policy already enacted by SAE. IFC wanted to test a hard alcohol-free campus on the school’s riskiest social day. As a result, hospital transports decreased from over 10 transports in 2017 to only 2 transports this year and there was also a decline in alcohol-related incidents overall. This trial period made the inherent risks associated with alcohol over 15% ABV in a college setting incredibly clear.
With the successful hard alcohol-free trial imposed by IFC, the entire chapter of Georgia Phi was able to see the benefits and purpose of SAE’s “Next Steps 2018” Initiative. While it is true that hard alcohol can be consumed in a responsible fashion, in the fraternity environment, the risks are simply too great to outweigh any benefits in cost and personal enjoyment. There is no debate that hard alcohol is potent and many Greek life deaths and unfortunate events nationally are associated with it.
While our members agree on the risks, some members feel as though the ban limits their freedom to choose what they want to consume. It is their right to feel that way, but we strive to look at the best interests of our chapter as a whole and when doing so, we understand why the change was instituted. In fact, we have already noticed behavioral improvement at our social functions this semester.
We believe that if Greek life nationally continues down the path of using hard alcohol, the legacy and community of fraternities and sororities could come to an end. It is clear that it is easier to seriously harm one’s self when drinking liquor vs. beer and wine, so having the freedom to consume hard alcohol is just not worth the potentially dire consequences of over-consumption. Without SAE’s intervention through the establishment of the new policy, it is possible our children and grandchildren would not be able to join Greek life and experience the same benefits and brotherhood that we all enjoy. By shifting our mindsets towards a safer and healthier fraternity experience, the men of Georgia Phi remain 100% committed to the liquor ban as a way to ensure our fraternity’s continued success in the future.
If you or your chapter are experiencing these challenges, we hope sharing our story will help you make the right choice as well.