The Huffington Post reports that most sororities in the country are dry: They don't let girls have alcohol in the house at all. The national Greek organization that oversees most sororities, the National Panhellenic Conference, has apparently maintained that policy for as long as anyone can remember—it's a staple of a "more Victorian era," according to the organization. Fraternities, on the other hand, have no such prohibition.
Perhaps more surprising: No one seems interested in changing things.
"I hate to say it, but I don't see that changing ever," said Julie Johnson, a committee chairwoman at the NPC.
According to a HuffPost poll, 65 percent of women and 50 percent of men agreed that sororities should remain dry:
Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they agreed that "sorority houses should not be allowed to host parties that serve alcohol." Yet, only 50 percent of men in the poll agreed with the statement, compared with 65 percent of women.
Just 16 percent of female respondents think sororities should be allowed to host alcoholic parties, compared with 32 percent of men, the poll found.
Technically speaking, most residents of both sorority and fraternity houses are under 21 and can't legally drink alcohol anyway. And I'm sure this policy isn't followed uniformly, and is often flouted. But just like the drinking age, a stated no-alcohol policy shifts students' drinking habits—not by stopping them from drinking, but by changing where and when they are more likely to drink. Since sorority sisters aren't supposed to drink at home, and can't host social events with alcohol, and are legally barred from drinking at bars and restaurants, they are driven to parties—at apartments, college town houses, and fraternities—when they want to drink.
It's easy to see why this may not be a socially desirable result. Drinking in a stranger's basement is inherently more dangerous than drinking in the comfort of your own home, or a bar. It seems to me that the kinds of misunderstandings, uncomfortable situations, and outright assaults that befall college women are far more likely to occur when drinking under such conditions. If college girls are going to get drunk at parties no matter what the law says, shouldn't more of those parties be happening on their own turf—in an environment controlled by women, where a potential rape victim is surrounded by girls she knows and lives with?
The so-called "epidemic" of sexual assault on campus is probably exaggerated, given how dubious the statistics are. But campus rape does happen—and when it does, it is almost always the result of blackout drinking. Don't both NPC's alcohol policy and the current legal drinking age incentivize sorority girls to binge drink in the dark, late at night, in unfamiliar, male-dominated environments, away from their sisters?
Some progressives think the best way to fix the problem is to concentrate on what happens right before a potential assault is committed. They are obsessed over the precise words leading up to an assault, and think legislatures should force colleges to police the expression of thoughts and feelings during intimate moments.
Instead of forcing students to say the right words to each other under dangerous and incapacitating drinking conditions, why don't we simply remove the policies that encourage them to drink so irresponsibly?
Read more about the libertarian answer to the campus rape crisis here.