September 11, 2000

Local Sororities Await Ruling on New Alcohol Policy

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The University’s Panhellenic Council hopes to keep sorority events involving alcohol monitored and on campus as they await further discussion of their request for a variance from the National Panhellenic Council’s (NPC) Alcohol Resolution.

In accordance with this resolution, each national sorority adopted some level of a policy forbidding sororities from co-sponsoring events with fraternities that are not dry.

At the end of April, Panhel President Gabi Erbacher ’01 presented a 200-page document to the national presidents of the thirteen sororities which have chapters at Cornell. The document contains information recommending the use of Cornell’s policies to regulate sorority events in place of the NPC Alcohol Resolution.

Erbacher said that over the summer she and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs discussed the document with members of the executive board of the thirteen national organizations.

“Now we’re working towards deciding whether or not we’re going to have an alcohol summit. If we have an alcohol summit, a representative from each one of the 13 sororities would come and discuss their concerns and our concerns,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that our situation would necessarily change, that we would be allowed to have a variance; it doesn’t mean we wouldn’t be allowed to have a variance. They’re just saying ‘let’s continue discussion.'”

The NPC devised the alcohol resolution in response to a request by the national fraternities.

About a year and a half ago, Phi Delta Theta Fraternity nationally went dry and was no longer allowed to serve alcohol. Phi Delt wanted other fraternities to go dry as well so they would be the same for recruitment and in policy. When many of the fraternities did not go dry, the fraternities approached the NPC.

“They asked the members of the National Panhellenic Council, which is 26 organizations, if they would consider passing something that would say that their women can’t drink in fraternities anymore,” Erbacher said.

The NPC devised an alcohol resolution with three levels of strictness, the strictest forbidding a sorority to co-sponsor events in a fraternity which is not dry. Each national sorority adopted a policy which falls into one of these levels.

“That policy is good in theory,” Erbacher said. “They’re saying, ‘listen, your parties are ruining fraternity houses, and we don’t think you should be having as many alcoholic events as you do.’ It makes sense for most campuses, especially the ones still having keggers that are unregistered and unmonitored.”

Cornell has a system of checks and balances for events involving alcohol, Erbacher said. In addition, because of Cornell’s rural location and lack of nearby facilities which allow people under 21 to enter, a policy requiring social events to be held in locations other than fraternities would create unsafe situations resulting in drunk driving or girls walking long distances at night.

“I think Cornell has always had a good policy,” said Nikki D’Amato ’01, president of the Alpha Omicron Pi Sorority. “[The current policy] takes into account a lot of characteristics which are specific to Cornell, which AOPi’s [national policy] does not.”

Until the variance is discussed and finalized, Cornell’s chapters must each follow the policy their national house adopted. AOPi’s policy falls in the middle category of strictness of the NPC Alcohol Resolution. This means that they are allowed to have events in a fraternity house if alcohol is not involved and may hold events involving alcohol at locations other than the fraternity house.

Erbacher also said that if people want to drink, they are going to drink; and without using Cornell’s system of checks and balances, the events will not be monitored.

To hold an event involving alcohol at a fraternity, a house must register through the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs. The police and fire departments are notified of where the party will be, and Spirits catering service monitors the event and controls under-age drinking. Random checks also ensure that whoever is supposed to be sober is sober.

“I think the Greek system at Cornell is moving towards a responsible drinking environment that supports its members, but also offers a healthy and safe social outlet,” Associate Dean Felicia Hunt said.

If the variance is not granted, Panhel may devise a policy for Cornell sororities.

“We would probably come up with a resolution that would go along with one of the policies, one of the levels,” Erbacher said. We would adopt one, and then depending on how strict ours was, the houses would have to either follow ours or follow their own policy, depending which one was the stricter one.”

Archived article by Abbie Westervelt