After the University banned the consumption of alcohol during rush week this year, fraternities witnessed a large decrease in overall alcohol consumption in the spring 2012 recruitment period. However, the decline was accompanied by a trend in rush events shifting to off-campus venues, according to data released by the Interfraternity Council Thursday.
According to surveys administered by the IFC to students who rushed and joined fraternities this semester, 72.6 percent of students reported that they did not drink any alcohol during rush. By contrast, 32.9 percent reported not drinking in 2011. Furthermore, students reported that hard alcohol consumption and excessive binge drinking — characterized as ingesting more than seven drinks in a single night — were drastically lower than the amounts reportedly consumed during the previous two rush weeks.
“Not only are fewer students drinking, but even for those that are, they are drinking much safer,” said Alex Rawitz ’13, IFC vice president for recruitment.
Still, the number of survey respondents who said they attended off-campus rush events increased from previous years. Sanders said this trend, which may be indicative of a response to stricter rules, will need to be further examined.
“We are very happy with the results, but we have to be realistic in knowing that it wasn’t a completely dry rush,” Sanders said. “The lack of open parties and drinking during events at chapter houses caused an increase in people going to Ithaca or even further out of town.”
The surveys were created and administered by the IFC to track changes in rush week activity after new University rules were handed down at the end of last year. The data was analyzed through the Dartmouth Collaborative, an initiative created in 2011 to reduce high-risk drinking at colleges throughout the country.
The IFC has stipulated that the reported decrease in alcohol consumption could be attributed to new rules that discouraged drinking at night during rush week, according to IFC president Chris Sanders ’13.
In September, the IFC approved an altered rush week schedule in response to University demands. For the first time, contacts — where chapters visit potential members at their dorm rooms — occurred on Wednesday night from 10 p.m. to midnight to decrease the number of opportunities for nighttime events. “Smokers,” or open house events, were made dry and moved from daytime to Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6 p.m. to midnight.
“The IFC tried to find ways in which we could offset trends of parties ending up in Collegetown,” Sanders said. “People ultimately started drinking later in the night, so there was much more time to cut down on drinking opportunities.”
Despite the overall decrease in alcohol consumption, some fraternity members acknowledged that drinking did occur outside of fraternity houses during rush.
“In our house, we took extra precautions to be in compliance with the new rules. But at the same time, we took precautions to fall under the radar and get our rushes away from campus oversight,” said one fraternity president who insisted upon anonymity for fear of judicial repercussions.
Rawitz said he believes the IFC will be able to solve the relocation of rush events to off-campus venues over the next few years once upperclassmen have graduated.
“Older brothers who witnessed wet rushes” are set in their ways, Rawitz said. “The only reason people drank was because students had certain expectations of fraternities. As the status quo changes, chapters will realize that no one expects to drink, so we can shift most events back to our houses.”
Rawitz cited the increase in students who rushed this year as a reason to expect increasing acceptance of the new rush process, which he said will remain permanently dry going forward.
“Last year, when we were debating the future, half of the IFC said rush numbers would go down because students would be turned off by not drinking,” Rawitz said. “The other half said it will make frats more exclusive by providing prospective brothers with fewer options. If they do in fact want to join a house, they will do so to experience a fraternity for all of the non-drinking related aspects of the Greek system.”
Sanders said the IFC has not yet developed a concrete plan to reduce off-campus drinking during rush week but that the issue will be addressed more in the coming months.
“We had some very positive trends this year. We want to see how we can continue these upward movements,” Sanders said. “But with everything else that has been going on this semester … we haven’t yet had any in-depth conversations on the issue.”