Greek parties are a lot like the local raccoons; they’re big, obnoxious, smell like booze and very few of us would miss them if they were gone. But when the hordes return to Isla Vista in the next week and descend for a few nights of back-to-school celebration, they’ll find plenty of raccoons, but no Greek keggers.
Over the summer, UCSB’s Greek system adopted a new set of alcohol regulations for its houses, moving toward a semidry policy that forbids any of the raging Greek parties I.V. residents can so fondly remember.
The new restrictions prohibit alcohol at any social event of 30 or more people on or in any facility affiliated with a Greek house in any way. If Greeks want to go on a bender, they’ll have to find a licensed and insured third party vendor and set up shop there. Greeks who still want to have a drink or two in the comfort of their own home can, just as long as they don’t invite 29 of their closest friends.
“We’re trying to refocus,” said Stephan Franklin, director of Greek Affairs at UCSB for the past two years, about the reason for the change.
The new policy comes as an attempt to move back toward the philosophies traditionally associated with the Greek system – such as charity, community and academics – and away from the more recent such as cheap beer, the Dave Matthews Band and paddles.
More importantly, it’s also a preventative measure targeting underage drinking, alcohol-related sexual assault and violence.
In the past few years, UCSB has seen a growing trend of sexual assaults and other problems related to alcohol within the Greek system. Since Greeks couldn’t handle themselves or their liquor, the university created the new plan.
“They’ve had two years,” said Franklin. “Actions speak louder than words.”
Not matter whether you hate or love the Greek system, they do manage to provide some good in the world, often through philanthropic efforts and community service. But all the selfless deeds in the world don’t make up for the previous problems.
Franklin said that the majority of Greek houses at UCSB have violated the previous standards, but some have caused more trouble than others.
Previously, Greek houses were under a Bring Your Own Beer policy, which meant that Greeks could bring a six-pack of beer or wine coolers. The old policy also required hired security and that partygoers receive a wristband or stamp identifying them as 21 or older.
If you’ve been to a frat party recently, you’ll know how well that system worked.
Violations of the policies bring some hefty consequences. The first offense puts the house on social probation, restricting planned events and confining members to rousing nights of Parcheesi and Clue.
After a second screw-up, the university withdraws its affiliation with the fraternity or sorority, preventing the house from recruiting new members and planning events. The national organization will come in and root around, surgically removing the cancerous Greeks.
If things get grim, the review board will sign a Do Not Resuscitate order and pull the plug. Sometimes for good, sometimes just long enough for the meatheads to graduate or drop out.
Along with the new alcohol restrictions, Greek houses are also required to attend six mandatory workshops throughout the year, ranging in topics from hazing and alcohol to sexual assault. The effectiveness of the workshops, however, rests on the shoulders of the Greeks themselves.
You can beat Joe Pike over the head with statistics, exercises and education, but if he doesn’t want to change, nothing will happen.
The new policy is a careful move by the university since monitoring relies on patrols done by interns in the Office of Student Life, volunteers from the Greek system and reports from the Isla Vista Foot Patrol. Stricter control wouldn’t be possible without a major overhaul of the entire system.
The response from the Greek system has been mixed, with the majority just waiting to see how it will pan out. Some of the houses, already alcohol-free by decree of their national organization, are in favor of the new move. If all social events at houses have to be dry, then there won’t be a draw toward the houses that usually put on wet events – now everyone can play Parcheesi and Clue.
UCSB’s Greek system should consider itself fairly lucky – in April UC Berkeley imposed a sweeping yet temporary prohibition on its Greek system, forcing all the houses to dry up. In a fit of sobriety, some Greek alumni refused to donate to the school because of the ban.
Whether or not the policy succeeds is anyone’s guess, although current surveys by the Alcohol-Free Housing Task Force show reductions in alcohol-related violence and sexual assault in houses that have moved toward drier conditions.
But there’s a huge difference between houses that choose to go dry and those that are suddenly forced.
If the new policy reduces the problems in the past, great; anything that reduces violence and sexual assault has some significance. However, if the reduction comes solely because of new rules and not an increase in personal responsibility, then we can only count it as a partial win.
The slack-jawed vulture intent on using alcohol to get women in bed will still use his dirty tricks, just in the smaller social gatherings or wherever the drinks flow freely.
On the whole, it is a solid plan and a decent start toward reducing the trouble in the Greek system, although it isn’t a grand solution. Any attempt to change a culture that’s existed for years will fall short if people don’t develop any responsibility. The university can declare policy until it’s blue in the face without fixing anything.
And before the rest of us point our fingers and laugh, keep in mind, UCSB’s parental notification policy kicks in this fall.
Steven Ruszczycky is the Daily Nexus Opinion editor.