On August 27, 66 international and national male fraternities as part of the North-American Interfraternity Conference in a 'near-unanimous vote' passed a new rule banning hard alcohol from being present in fraternity chapters and events, including fraternity houses. Under this rule, hard alcohol will be considered anything more than 15% alcohol by volume so that essentially only wine and beer are allowed. This ban applies to all students, including adults 21 and older. The Conference represents more than 80% of fraternities nationwide including more than 6,000 chapters on more than 800 campuses.
I commend this Conference for trying to limit and prevent unsafe drinking habits and cultures on college campuses. Traditionally fraternities in the U.S. are associated with partying and drinking, so I do believe that if we want to change campus drinking cultures to make them safer then it is important to start with fraternities.
However, this rule was made primarily in response to "high-profile hazing episodes that have resulted in deaths and lawsuits." Since 2005, there have been 60 fraternity-related deaths. In 2013, Chun Hsien Deng, a freshman at Baruch College, fell unconscious and died during a hazing event where he had to run across a frozen yard blindfolded as Pi Delta Psi members tried to tackle and hit him. Pi Delta Psi members delayed seeking medical aid and instead called their national fraternity official, who advised them to hide anything associated with or could be used to identify the fraternity. Four members were charged with murder and pled guilty to manslaughter.
In 2017 alone, there were four male students in the US who died from fraternity hazing:
Timothy Piazza, a Penn State student, died after falling down the stairs that injured his brain and ruptured his spleen during a Beta Theta Pi hazing ritual requiring him to drink large amounts of alcohol.
Maxwell Gruver, a Louisiana State student, died after participating in a "Bible Study" hazing event where Phi Delta Theta pledges were forced to drink if they incorrectly answered questions about the fraternity.
Andrew Coffey, a Florida State junior, died after drinking heavily during a 'big brother' Pi Kappa Phi ritual.
Matthew Ellis, a sophomore at Texas State, died after heavy drinking at an initiation event for Phi Kappa Psi.
In all these cases, criminal charges were pursued against the fraternity members of that chapter.
Alcohol, especially hard alcohol, has been part of many of these hazing incidents and have been a contributing factor in these tragic deaths. Although the ban on hard alcohol may help, they are still allowed to drink beer and wine. What's to stop these hazing practices from forcing students to drink high amounts of beer and wine? If there had not been these hazing events, these students would not have drank so much and been put in dangerous situations that led to their deaths.
In fact, many of these universities responded to these events by stopping pledging, banning those fraternities from campus, and even banning fraternity or Greek life altogether. I believe that what fraternities and college campuses should focus on is not banning hard alcohol but rather how to drink responsibly and focus on stopping hazing.