July 31, 2003

BYOB Awaits Thirsty Cornell Students

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“Big Red” changes are in store for Cornell’s alcohol policy at fraternity parties starting this fall. Upon returning to Ithaca, students will need not only a valid identification to drink, but will also have to bring their own beverages.

Under the new “bring-your-own-beverage” (BYOB) policy, planned by the Interfraternity Council (IFC), 21-year-old partygoers will each be allowed to bring a single six pack of prepackaged alcohol (beer, wine coolers or malt beverages) to registered fraternity parties.

At the door, students will exchange their beverages for a “a device that limits consumption to 6 drinks. Examples of such devices are punch cards, raffle tickets that also identify the type of alcohol brought,” according to the BYOB policy. Throughout the party, students will trade their tickets in return for alcohol at the bar.

No hard alcohol of any kind will be permitted and “no beverages in glass containers are to be consumed,” the policy states.

“The house will get into a lot of trouble if hard liquor is found,” emphasized Michael Taylor ’05, the policy’s writer, member of Sigma Pi fraternity and IFC vice president of communications.

“The purpose of BYOB is to allow more flexibilty to the fraternities to hold social events, but to make sure it is a safe environment. Not allowing hard liquor at BYOB events is a great way to increase safety,” said Paul El-Meouchy ’04, IFC president and member of Sigma Pi fraternity.

No one without proper identification will be allowed to bring alcoholic beverages to parties, according to Taylor. Although the policy recommends that chapters “hire professional security guards to work the entrances,” brothers hosting the fraternity party will be allowed to act as bouncers and check identification at the door, after going through comprehensive IFC training.

In addition, a guest list of all drinking and non-drinking guests will have to be kept at the entrance door.

Since chapters will not be paying for alcohol at these events, there will be no cover charge at the door. “Chapters are supposed to provide non-alcoholic alternatives like soda and water to both under and over aged students,” El-Meouchy said

“Removing some of the liability from fraternities is almost always a good thing, especially when it allows frats to have parties without charging our guests — a great thing,” said Gabriel Slater, ’04, member of Phi Psi fraternity.

Even though the BYOB policy is new to the Cornell campus, it has been “utilized on other campuses, so this is nothing new to Greek systems nationwide,” said Suzy Nelson, associate dean of students for fraternity and sorority affairs. According to Nelson, the policy was modified at Cornell in an “effort to respond to Greek chapter members’ desire to host small, private events legally,” thus prompting the IFC to propose “modifying the existing fraternity and sorority social policy to include bring-your-own-beverage events.”

The policy has long been anticipated by Greek alumni. “Previously, if alumni of a particular fraternity came back for homecoming, the fraternity would not be able to serve them alcohol in their house without hiring a third party caterer,” Taylor said.

Under current IFC policy, the only lawful way for a Cornell chapter to host an event involving alcohol is by “utilizing a licensed caterer,” Nelson said.

“Third party caterers often charge up to 1,000 dollars for their time, keep the eight dollar admission fee that all guests pay, and charge the fraternity for the amount of alcohol purchased for the event,” Taylor said. “With BYOB, the costs of throwing a party are far less, as there is no entrance fee whatsoever, and houses won’t be supplying the alcohol,” he added.

The new policy will not completely eradicate catered parties from campus though.

According to the policy, there will have to be ten sober monitor brothers per 100 guests at BYOB events. “Hence, Lighthouse Catering company will still be active in the fall, and they will be used by houses for really large parties,” Taylor said.

News of the BYOB policy spurred a variety of reactions from students. Some embraced the change, while others were skeptical.

“Any change in policy that eliminates the need to have a caterer in order to legitimize an event of a certain size is going to be an improvement over the current system. Over the last couple years, legal social events required a fraternity or sorority to rely on here-today-gone-tomorrow catering companies that have proven to be all but reliable over the course of a semester, let alone school year length contract period,” said Zach Hollander ’04, rush chair of Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity.

Ilya Shulman ’04 was skeptical of the policy.

“It is hard to imagine how anyone – both with sympathy and scorn for fraternities – would help scoffing if asked to believe that no hard liquor would find its way to a party or that every underage student would settle for quietly sipping Coke while enjoying a social event in question,” Shulman said.

“It’s stupid to think we’re going to lug our own beer and that underage drinking won’t occur,” said Margarita Lukin ’04.

Archived article by Veronika Belenkaya