Drinking Age

3 Reasons Why UVA's New Safety Requirements for Fraternities Are Ridiculous


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The University of Virginia will allow its Greek community to resume social activities on campus—provided that fraternities and sororities accept the terms of a new "safety agreement" that limits their ability to serve alcohol and requires hall monitors to guard the stairs to the bedrooms during parties.

The terms can be found here. Among the most significant requirements is a new policy demanding that a certain number of fraternity brothers remain sober and on guard at alcohol distribution points and bedroom entrances:

A minimum of 3 brothers must be sober and lucid at each fraternity function.

i. "Sober and lucid" is defined as a brother acting without influence of any substance.

ii. At least one each of the above sober brothers must be present at each point of alcohol distribution and another at the stairs leading to residential rooms.

iii. In addition to the required monitors outlined above, fraternities must provide an additional sober brother monitor for every 30 members of the chapter, as derived by adding the number of active brothers and new members.

iv. At least three of the sober monitors must be non-first year brothers.

v. All monitors must wear a designated identifier, which will remain consistent across all IFC chapters.

The agreement also places limits on what types of alcohol may be served: beer must be served in cans, wine must be poured by a sober brother, and pre-mixed punches are banned outright. If fraternities want to serve mixed drinks, they have to hire a bartender.

These impositions are unwise, for three reasons.

First, lest anyone forget, the UVA Greek community has been forced to accept new limits on its activities because of the fallout from a magazine story —a largely discredited magazine story. UVA President Teresa Sullivan made the decision to suspended fraternities and sororities only after activists perceived her as insufficiently outraged by Rolling Stone's groundbreaking report on a horrific gang rape at a UVA's Phi Psi chapter. We now know that the shocking incident described in the story never took place, and while it's still remotely possible something similar happened to the woman known as "Jackie" under different circumstances, all evidence supporting that contention has collapsed.

Incidentally, those in the media who have essentially said what difference does it make if Jackie's story is true? should feel embarrassed. The story has clearly made a difference in the lives of everyone at UVA, particularly members of the Greek community who must now accept significant sanctions, even though the explicit reason for those sanctions never actually applied. I'm sure some will contend that UVA's Greek community is dangerous and in need of reform anyway, but the administration took these steps for a specific reason: a (now debunked) magazine story.

Second, it's not crystal clear to me that UVA has the right—either legally or ethically—to punish all Greek organizations for the sins of some. Hans Bader and Glenn Harlan Reynolds have argued that these actions "smacked of collective punishment." Now, it's true that fraternities are often governed by national organizations that require them to submit to university dictates, so the members' general First Amendment rights might not apply—the groups essentially have internal rules requiring them to comply with university rules in some cases. And UVA could go after them for serving alcohol to minors—to the extent that they do—since that's a violation of the law. But I'm not sure UVA has presented a credible argument for requiring that all student clubs of a certain type accept limits on their activities. And in fact, UVA guarantees its students the rights of free expression, assembly, and due process under its code of conduct.

Third, there is good reason to doubt that the alcohol-related requirements will work. Students already routinely flout a much more serious alcohol-related requirement: the drinking age of 21. Breaking the law carries more serious risk than breaking some university dictate, but that hardly seems to deter teenagers. Perhaps instead of jettisoning the bowl of mystery punch, fraternity brothers will instead move the bowl to some dark basement corner and only allow first-year female students access to it.

A better solution would be to let the state of Virginia, or the university itself, experiment with different alcohol laws. It would not surprise me if UVA found that the best way to keep vulnerable 18-year-olds away from frat parties was to let them drink at bars. But that would require Congress to repeal the National Mandatory Drinking Age Act.

UVA administrators should work to reduce campus rape wherever possible. But they should do that with respect to students' rights, with an eye toward alcohol realism, and in light of facts, not debunked magazine stories.

NEXT: Buying Booze for Someone With DUI Could Be Felony if Oklahoma Lawmaker Gets His Way

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  1. These rules were more or less in effect at UC Berkeley when I went there (’97-01). The fraternities were required to agree to these rules, and then they were promptly ignored.

    1. The administrators know these rules will be ignored. It gives them more arbitrary power, which is all the kind of person who becomes a college administrator is after anyway.

    2. Yeah, I think that’s pretty much how it works.
      When I was at college “official” parties were supposed to check IDs if they provided alcohol. Usually they just put an X on everyone’s hand and ignored it.
      It did help that campus security were not police and didn’t give a shit. You basically couldn’t get in trouble for drugs or alcohol unless you were blatantly dealing or had a kegger in a dorm.

      1. or had a kegger in a dorm.

        We did that once. When we inevitably got busted, the cops agreed to pretend that I was the only one who had anything to do with it, all I had to do was skip a meeting with an alcohol abuse counselor.

        1. The first time I went to college (U of MN Morris) the only rule the dorm really had was no kegs.

          Of course we all had keggers because it was forbidden fruit.

          When we got busted we didn’t even have to meet with anyone. A RA would just write up a “pink sheet” on you. No limit to how many pink sheets you could have.

          The dorms were pretty rocking places to be on a weekend night during the winter.

          1. Frats and upperclass houses could have kegs as long as they told Public Safety in advance and someone put their name down as the responsible party. It was just lower class dorms that couldn’t have kegs.
            I wonder what it is like now?

            1. Why would the Frats have to tell anyone? At my school the Frats are miles of away from campus in town.
              And I’ve never seen a dorm-room big enough to hold a keg actually.

        2. You’re lucky. I had to buff the floors in the hallway for a semester. But I did a piss poor job, and eventually broke the machine.

          It’s really funny when you turn it on high, tip it on its side, and plug it in. You never know what it’s going to crash into.

          1. Really? Did you also have to write “I will not host a kegger” 100 times on a blackboard?

            1. Nope. I did a lot of things to get that keg into the dorm, including creating a diversion to get it past security and into the elevator.

              I was lucky the punishment wasn’t worse. They probably could have kicked me out of the dorms.

      2. A kegger in a dorm? We called that Friday night. And Saturday night. Our university rule was just that you had to serve an “equally attractive” non-alcoholic beverage. Which is pretty much anything, compared to weak beer in plastic cups. (West Coast party school FTW.)

        1. It really was just kegs. Large boxes of spirits and cases of beer were no problem.

    3. The frat I belonged to at Memphis State had a rule against keg parties. We regularly violated that rule. A few of the brothers would always get their panties in a bunch about it, but the rest of us would tell them to get bent.

      I can’t remember if that was just a frat rule or a campus rule. The only rule that we ever followed was that the underage kids had to stay in the fenced in back yard. Anyone of age was allowed to drink in the front yard. That was only because underage drinking in the front yard was a sure fire way to get a visit from the cops.

    4. As we discussed the other day =

      The point i think here is not the rules, so much as the likely consequences when the administration goes out of their way to bust their inevitable failure to comply

      Were these rules enacted in a completely different environment, where the purpose *truly was* to create some kind of legitimate liability reduction in some way, and were agreed cooperatively with the organizations themselves, I’d take them at face value.

      However, in the current context, I can only assume these rules are a pretext to begin to penalize these institutions out of existence.

      1. That was the idea, I think. We were on probation the entire time I was there, and finally got kicked off.

        But we REALLY had to push the envelope to get kicked off. I mean REALLY.

        1. You obviously still require deprogramming from your time at a communist indoctrination camp (UC-whatever)

          You’re blaming yourself. It not your fault man. Its not your fault.

      2. Way back in the 1970’s, we had no such rules (or maybe we did, but I never heard about them). My frat had beer on tap 24/7.

        A few years after I graduated, they lost their charter, the house was torn down, and the area was paved over as a parking lot. They may also have salted the earth.

        1. This actually looks like a decent premise for an update of the Poltergeist franchise, with a political-correctness spin

          because the new Gender Studies department is built on the site…? And they are plagued by the ghosts of fratboys past….

          1. Okay – that is awesome. Get Spielberg on the phone, stat.

    5. These were largely the rules at JMU near the end of my tenure (’95 – ’99). Mixed drinks were banned after my freshman year, unlimited kegs became 10 kegs my sophomore year, then 6 my junior year, then it went to all cans. Pledges could work sober but the bar had to be run by at least one sober full brother and one member of the executive council had to be sober to deal with IFC and University inspectors. IDing occurred at the door, you had to be on a pre-filed guest list (2 invitees per brother) and 21 year olds received party bands.

      I’d say we followed about 50% of those rules, 50% of the time.

      Almost all Greek life was on campus at JMU though in University-owned housing so that’s a distinct difference. At UVA, even if they are on campus, the houses themselves may not be university property. Either way, if my experience is any way illustrative, the national fraternities will cave at the slightest university demand. Don’t follow, lose your charter.

    6. We didn’t have to worry about these rules when I was in a fraternity during the same time. We had people who joined the fraternity who didn’t drink for whatever reason and they would sometimes be the sober brothers. Also, if somebody didn’t pay their dues or damaged the house, they would have to be sober at parties. In other words, this is going to make people feel good, but won’t actually change actual behavior.

  2. I wonder why adults would subject themselves to such paternalistic nonsense; then I remember that I live in The Land Of Perpetual Childhood, a society incapable of raising up adults.

    1. You’re grounded!

  3. Sometimes dude you jsut have to roll with it.


    1. ^^ This!

      1. German, of course!


        1. In German, all of “War and Peace” could be translated into a single, 8 million line, compound word.

  4. While I suspect this is meaningless, it’s still amusing to see new laws implemented in light of NOTHING AT ALL

    1. Over/Under on how long until the frats move off-campus and become only unofficially affiliated with the school?

  5. Obviously, there should be some mandatory article of clothing or other marker to identify all fraternity members at all times. For the safety of the wimminfolks.

  6. Why does VA have to wait for the Congress to repeal a law? Colorado and Washington didn’t wait for Congress to repeal any MJ laws.

    Sure VA might lose some highway funds. If I was a VA legislator, I might lower the drinking age and also stop remitting the federal gas taxes collected in VA.

    It would surely set up a fun constitutional test of federalism.

    1. Or it might if the gas tax were collected by the state government and then sent to Washington. But in fact, the Treasury takes those taxes directly from the retailers, so unless members of the General Assembly own gas stations (as my state senator used to), there’s no opportunity for them to “stop remitting the federal gas taxes collected in VA.”

  7. “Perhaps instead of jettisoning the bowl of mystery punch, fraternity brothers will instead move the bowl to some dark basement corner and only allow first-year female students access to it.”

    You know, I suddenly got the urge to pursue continuing education at a university, and to join a fraternity…

    Wait, is this microphone still on? Oops…

  8. i. “Sober and lucid” is defined as a brother acting without influence of any substance.

    Is that possible? Why do people say “substance” when they mean “psychoactive drug”?

    And are they really forbidden to be influenced by caffeine, aspirin or prescribed medications?


      /shakes cane at Zeb

    2. Good points.

      “Sober and lucid” is defined as a brother having stayed awake for three days without eating and spinning around in place constantly.

      1. And who knows how to express himself precisely.

    3. Why do people say “substance” when they mean “psychoactive drug”?

      Why do you assume they mean psychoactive drug?

      I assumed the phrase “any substance” could legimately be expanded to “any substance, real or imagined” in their conception of the law.

      1. Caffeine is a psychoactive drug. No pop for the monitors.

      2. Why do you assume they mean psychoactive drug?

        Because people often say “substance” when they mean psychoactive drug.

        And as stupid as administrators can be, I don’t think they intended for the rule to mean that they can’t eat food or breathe air before or while monitoring the party.

  9. This will go a long way to limiting the ability of students to make up fake rape stories.

  10. ii. At least one each of the above sober brothers must be present at each point of alcohol distribution and another at the stairs leading to residential rooms.


    “First, you administer the breathalyzer test, then you hand out the condoms, or make the girl sign the waiver of liability certifying she is using birth control. After you check to see that the cameras and audio recording equipment are working, they’re good to go. Is that clear?”

    1. All video must be submitted to the dean of housing for a thorough review. And lights must be left on.

      1. Bring back the Puritanical bundling process.

    2. at the stairs leading to residential rooms.

      Further, all fraternities will be required to have at least two stories to all domiciles and all residential rooms are to be designated on the upper floors…

      Just designate the “rape-free” and “rape-only” zones already.

  11. “a largely discredited magazine story.”

    But Robby!? there’s no cost for accusing anyone of rape!

    “Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist. Even if Jackie fabricated her account, U-Va. should have taken her word for it during the period while they endeavored to prove or disprove the accusation. This is not a legal argument about what standards we should use in the courts; it’s a moral one, about what happens outside the legal system.

    The accused would have a rough period. He might be suspended from his job; friends might defriend him on Facebook. In the case of Bill Cosby, we might have to stop watching his shows, consuming his books or buying tickets to his traveling stand-up routine. But false accusations are exceedingly rare, and errors can be undone by an investigation that clears the accused, especially if it is done quickly.

    Obviously there is no real impact on fraternities @ UVA. Suggesting otherwise is to perpetuate Rape Culture. Duh.

    1. the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist

      I’m not sure I buy that. Rape is a horrible thing, but nothing is going to un-rape someone. You can however avoid falsely accusing someone of rape much more easily.

    2. The person who wrote that is wrong. Being accused can ruin your life, even if you are cleared of wrongdoing, people assume you just got away with it. And it’s like this because people precisely jump to the conclusion the accused is guilty and never mend their opinion when evidence to the contrary is presented. And they do that, because they are taught exactly to do that, especially in rape accusations.

  12. UVA should ban sorority girls from wearing lipstick, because those crazy rainbow parties could conceivably be real!

  13. Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist.

    Post 9/11 reasoning, in a nutshell.

    “An infinitesimally probable event carries such an enormous emotional cost we must be willing to impose any level of real costs in our largely theatrical efforts to prevent it.”

    1. well put

    2. Hence the TSA.

      1. Funny thing about the TSA. Going through their security theater doesn’t even make me “feel” safe.

    3. “An infinitesimally probable event carries such an enormous emotional cost we must be willing to impose any level of real costs in our largely theatrical efforts to prevent it.”

      Thus endeth the Republic.

  14. National Mandatory Drinking Age Act = NMDAA
    No fancy acronym ?
    Is that pronounced Num-Dah ?

    1. All I see is “MDMA.”

  15. So does this mean as a nineteen year old college freshman that I shouldn’t join a fraternity? If only to avoid the potential, and perhaps inevitable, headache?

    P.S. Reason lurker for a little over a year and a half. New commenter and still politically confused

    1. My only advice would be to wait until at least your sophomore year to rush. I loved (most of) my fraternity but do regret having not just experienced college unfettered at the very outset (I pledged my freshman year). All frats are different and for many people, it’s just not their thing. Spending time creating social circles instead of outright joining one from the beginning gives you options and a potentially larger breadth of experiences.

      There’s probably a political/ideological development analogy there somewhere as well. Have fun with it all!

    2. I think it depends a lot on your school too. Do you need to join a frat to get decent upperclass housing?

    3. I went to a college that had both a verified gang rape and a alcohol death by hazing at fraternities in the two years before I attended. I joined a fraternity my sophomore year (we were the one with the highest GPA; not the cool kids by any stretch) and many of the rules that UVA is imposing seem downright friendly compared to what we experienced. Mandatory sexual assault seminars, Board of Control visits to every party, actual state police as campus security…

      Still the best decision I ever made in college, and some of the best years of my life. Fraternities have parties one – maybe two days a week. It is all those other days that make being a brother worthwhile.

      But choose wisely.

  16. Fourth, they are creating a situation where an *individual* could be considered liable for actions taken well out of their control. By appointing these people as monitors, that is what they are in effect doing.

    1. no the school itself is ultimately liable unless it is legally stated that they are not; ie off campus housing

  17. Instead of requiring three “sober and lucid brothers” to monitor events at their frat party, it would make more sense to have three sober and lucid sorority sisters preventing their fellow members from pre-gaming themselves into a wobbly, drunken and eventually slutty and/or blacked out state.

    1. yes, blame all the drunk girls for being felt up and taken advantage of. it is after all their own fault right?!

      1. The problem is that they get drunk and go to parties with the intention of getting felt up, and then they get pissed off when the wrong guy feels them up.

  18. Eighteen year olds should have full Civil Rights and be treated as adults. Amend the 26th

  19. i think having regulati0ns where alcohol is consumed illegally, is a good idea, at least they are allowing them self-monitoring. should a RA be assigned or an adult who will be held accountable if someone drinks themselves to death, gets raped, kills someone in a drunken fight, cause damage, etc…. being forced to take responsibility while allowing you some freedom, is better than complete regulation. at least they will learn something this way.

  20. When I was in college many years ago, beer/liquor at “official” parties had to be served by licensed bartenders and we had to get a state liquor license for the event. We had to be sober and we had to check IDs for everyone we served.

    It wasn’t really a big deal.

    It’s not like they gave us a breathalyzer test before our shift, and the cops across the room couldn’t tell what was on the ID I was checking. So long as someone handed me some plastic, it was all good.

  21. These rules honestly don’t sound that bad, and I honestly don’t really care if a university requires an group of people to agree to certain rules before they get official status at the U.

    After all, nothing whatsoever is stopping a bunch of guys from renting a house together and throwing parties. You only have to agree to these rules if you want to be an officially sanctioned fraternity.

    If this was a private university, nobody would even question it.

    1. Guys renting a house and holding parties are what of the “frats” at my school are.
      Got rather funny when there was a “hazing” scandal last year and the NYT ran an editorial demanding the closing of a “Greek Row” that did not exist.

  22. Perhaps the “Greeks” should out-source hall security to the TSA?

  23. Totalitarian leftist busybody control freak PC cultural Marxism in action. Leave anything out?

  24. Ridiculous policies mandated because of a ridiculous rape hoax?

    How do I get out of this “Alice in Wonderland” rabbit hole!

    Let’s thank our stars it was not a real rape. All brothers might now be imprisoned in UVA basement bunkers.

    Someone — a male friend of Jackie’s, I think — said that based on Jackie’s emotional state, SOMETHING traumatic happened to her. Doubtful. What this young male friend apparently doesn’t know is that many people can very easily ACT as though they’re upset. Check Jackie’s background. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she has attended acting classes.

    What if a male student had falsely accused seven female students of drugging and sexually assaulting him? Compare what would have happened after that — including a UVA male president mandating new policies at sororities — to what in fact did happen after Jackie’s hoax?

    Women would never do such a thing, you say? You may want to rethink that after reading:

    “A rape epidemic — by women?” http://malemattersusa.wordpres…..-by-women/

    “When the rapist is a she” at salon.com/2011/08/03/male_rape/

    I sincerely believe it all could have been so very different — so much better — between men and women. There’s still hope. See:

    “The Sexual Harassment Quagmire: How To Dig Out” http://malemattersusa.wordpres…..-quagmire/

  25. As a fraternity member myself, the best thing for UVA fraternities to do is to strike back at the school hard by dissolving their fraternities. Fraternities bring social life to college campuses. Dissolving their organization will take away that life and make everything nice and safe like UVA wants it.

    1. Or simply drive everything undergound or informal where everything the administration whines about and more still happens and the school can do nothing.
      My school has few formal Greek outfits but tons of parties. Helps that the few Frats and Sororities aren’t even in the same town technically as the school.

  26. So UVA has never heard of bottled beer it seems.

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