Last month, the Interfraternity Council approved a resolution that will reward houses that show good behavior with free food on Slope Day. This resolution comes on the heels of a separate IFC resolution that will punish houses by fining them for violating alcohol policies. However, student safety should not be addressed by trivial punishments and frivolous rewards. Instead, successful policies must increase the probability that a fraternity will be caught with alcohol violations in the first place.
So far, fraternities seem to have largely ignored recent policies put in place by the administration. For example, a survey in November found that 62 percent of high-risk freshman drinkers still consumed alcohol at fraternity parties. The fact that the IFC is trying these new policies shows an admirable motivation to change the culture that exists within the Greek system at Cornell. However, we believe this culture is too entrenched to be changed by these new IFC strategies alone.
Fraternities are unlikely to change their behavior simply for the prospect of a hot dog on Slope Day or paying $10 per member for a policy violation. In fact, quantifying the violations with a fine may even backfire by reducing the moral imperative that comes with violating the policy, replacing it with a weaker economic incentive. A pair of economists studying an Israeli day care, for example, found that when fines were imposed for parents who were late to pick up their children, the number of late parents increased. The moral incentive for picking up a child on time was a stronger motivator.
To change the culture, stronger incentives than food and fines are necessary. Fortunately, these incentives already exist. The threat of losing recognition from the University is a powerful motivator, as is the threat of banning the fraternity from hosting social events. However, even with these harsh incentives, fraternities continue to break the rules. This is most likely due to the fact that fraternities perceive that they will not be caught violating the policies. Additionally, the challenge of enforcing these violations has grown, as these fraternities have increasingly conducted their activities at unregulated annex parties in Collegetown.
Truly transformational policies will center on broader enforcement and increasing the chances of a fraternity being caught with a violation. While it is great the IFC is being proactive and actively seeking to change the culture, stronger policies are necessary for the IFC to be successful.