The Dry Wave

University of Minnesota fraternities make it their mission to toss out the booze bottle and sober up

As anyone who's been to one knows, with big fraternity bashes come the occasional visit by police. Officer Charles Gust, with the Minneapolis Police Department's RECAP Unit, points out that while alcohol-related incidents at local fraternities in the last few years haven't involved severe injuries or deaths, there has been a spate of arrests--for public urination and intoxication, disorderly conduct, and drunk driving. Gary Hein, who patrols the MPD's Second Precinct, which includes fraternity row, agrees that there is cause for concern: "A lot of underage drinking is allowed to go on at frats because it's so hard to control. This is a problem because it's been shown that the earlier you start drinking, the more likely you are to develop problems with alcohol at a later age. And it's an issue for the university people, since they are the ones dealing with the aftermath when the students go back to the dorm and cause problems there." More to the point, Hein adds, "There's a lot of issues involving what happens at these parties. One of the main issues is statutory rape [when] girls are drunk. The problem is that it doesn't get reported. Date rape is one of the most rapidly rising offenses we deal with."

Counting the three fraternities that have so far gone alcohol-free, a majority of the 1800-plus Greek men and women on campus--less than ten percent of the whole student body--now live in dry houses. At the same time, those who revel in the binge-drinking life can continue to do so, though under the constraints of keg bans and strict rules against serving booze on the premises (read: "bring your own beer" for guests).

These restrictions were imposed not by the school's administration, but rather by self-governing bodies like the national fraternities and the local, student-run Interfraternity Council. "We would rather choose the steps we will take than have someone else make them for us," says IFC president Dan Kelly.

No drunks, no chunks: Alpha Tau Omega is one of three frats that have already kicked the habit
Jim Skuldt
No drunks, no chunks: Alpha Tau Omega is one of three frats that have already kicked the habit

Conspicuously absent from the discussion of banning alcohol are the fraternities with, at least in their minds, the most to lose. When asked, "Which frat throws the wildest parties?" and "Which frat will never willingly go dry?" Greek students mention the same names over and again. Not surprisingly, members of these houses were not eager to outline their alcohol-reform plans. The one thing they will comment on, however, is the "bad rap" fraternities that host high alcohol-content parties have received. Sure, they say, some festivities might get a bit out of hand, and partygoers may overindulge on occasion, but that doesn't mean their houses should be shunned if they refuse to enlist in the dry brigade. With Scott Krueger's death in mind, one Delta Tau Delta brother likens the plight of booze-or-bust fraternities to President Clinton's predicament of late: "Most people think he's done a good job, but unfortunately it only takes one mistake to cover up all the good you've done."

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