A national ban on hard liquor in fraternity spaces will soon go into effect at Kenyon as it joins more than 800 other colleges and universities with fraternal organizations on campus that will have to abide by the policy.
James Jackson, director of student rights and responsibilities, first brought the subject to light during Community Advisor (CA) training over the summer.
For a number of reasons, Kenyon is delaying enforcement of the policy, which went into effect on Sunday.
According to a 2018 press release from the North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC), a trade association that represents 66 national and international men’s fraternities, the ban “prohibits the presence of alcohol products above 15% ABV [alcohol by volume] in any chapter facility or at any chapter event, except when served by a licensed third-party vendor.”
The NIC’s decision comes in the wake of a maelstrom of deaths and accidents related to fraternity hazing with hard liquor, including the 2017 death of Tim Piazza at Penn State University. Piazza died after consuming copious amounts of vodka, beer and wine; his death resulted in criminal charges against 28 members of the university’s Beta Theta Pi fraternity.
Emmie Mirus ’21, a South campus CA, believes the policy is a step forward in preventing future tragedies of this kind. “It’s not just coming from Kenyon, it’s a national thing coming from a national policy, and I think that hazing injuries and issues relating to hard alcohol are really serious,” Mirus said. “From what we’ve heard about hazing on this campus and nationally, if that’s something that is supposed to sharply curtail that behavior, then it’s something I care about.”
Jackson says that Greek life often gets a bad reputation for the more extreme aspects of the culture, and that the national ban is an important step in remedying both that negative perception and its real-life underpinnings.
However, administrators and members of the Greek community at Kenyon have a long road ahead of them when it comes to enforcing the policy at the College.
For one, things are still fuzzy on the national level. According to the NIC press release, “any member fraternity that does not have a business meeting between Sept. 1, 2018, and Sept. 1, 2019, will be granted a one-year extension in adoption.” This grace period complicates implementation of the policy at single institutions, because some fraternities might have discussed the policy while others are still negotiating.
Probably the greatest obstacle in determining the policy is in the language itself. Unlike most other colleges, Kenyon doesn’t have traditional, chapter-owned fraternity houses, but rather houses its fraternities in division housing. Thus, the NIC’s term “chapter facility” raises questions about what constitutes a fraternity space.
“A lot of those organizations they have fraternity houses and things like that, which we don’t have,” Jackson said. “So we had to figure out: does that mean [chapter facilities] are the division spaces?”
In the first Greek Council meeting on Thursday, chapter leaders will begin discussing the policy with Director of Student Engagement Sam Filkins. According to Jackson, Filkins is currently working as an administrative liaison for the Greek community; Ashley Rastetter, who took another job over the summer, previously occupied this role.
Jackson is unsure of what the timeline for enforcement of this policy will look like, but he expressed confidence that cooperation between different branches of the College will be crucial. “Again, it’s a team effort,” Jackson said. “I think a lot of times people see it as a College doing, but it is nationals, chapter, alumni, administration all kind of working together to make sure we’re creating a safe environment.”