September 12, 2003

Bottoms Up, BYOB Style

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Wednesday night was a historic night on campus. The Cornell Panhellenic Association and the Multicultural Greek Letter Council voted the Bring Your Own Beverage social policy into action. The Interfraternity Council, which created the policy, had already passed it and was waiting for the remaining groups to give their approval.

According to Michael Taylor ’05, IFC vice president of University and community relations, the policy was necessary because there was only “one caterer left, and that caterer was even questionable for this year.”

In previous years, all fraternity parties were required to hire licensed caterers in order to distribute alcoholic beverages. Recently, these caterers had become more expensive, and the number of catering options was shrinking.

According to the policy, students 21 or older will be able to bring up to six of their own alcoholic drinks to events they choose to attend. Students must have their IDs checked at the door by a trained member of the fraternity, after which they have to exchange the drinks for six tickets or “other approved devices.”

When guests want to drink, they have to go to the storage area and exchange a ticket for one of their own beverages. For the exchange to be allowed, the person requesting the beverage cannot be intoxicated and must prove that they are of legal drinking age.

The policy also requires other procedures, including the creation of guest lists, the presence of non-alcoholic beverages and snacks at parties and a limit on the number of people allowed at events. The policy allows two guests for each fraternity brother.

Many other colleges and universities, such as the University of Pennsylvania, have already enacted similar policies, but this is the first of its kind at Cornell. The policy stresses that fraternities are still allowed and encouraged to use caterers for events that will have large numbers of guests.

The Panhellenic Association added an amendment to the bill, giving them the ability to sanction fraternities who entice sororities to participate in illegal events.

The legislation passed with a vote of 11-1, with Alpha Epsilon Phi being the only sorority not to vote in its favor.

According to Panhel president Meghan Dubyak ’04, opponents of the new policy fear that the policy “will be destructive to the Greek system” in that the newly added restrictions might turn away potential recruits. She added, however, that she thinks the increased safety and responsibility at fraternity events will be “better for the Greek system at Cornell.”

“The BYOB policy is not really a sorority issue, but we want to try to make parties safe and be responsible,” Dubyak said.

While Panhel was passing the legislation, members of IFC fraternities were being trained in Uris Hall on how to run a BYOB event.

Tim Hunt, president of I’m Smart of Central New York, ran the training session. He described I’m Smart as an “alcohol countermeasure company” which works with many area bars and colleges.

In the first half of his presentation, Hunt spoke about techniques and instruments used to spot forged documents such as fake IDs. Later he discussed how to spot an intoxicated person and how to handle him or her in particular situations.

During the course of his talk, Hunt also gave information about alcohol and its effects. His explanation of the different ways that people try to get drunk received a lot of laughs from the audience; these included “skin shots,” “eye shots,” “tampon shots” and “fire island enemas.”

Later, an audience member was given goggles that simulated what it would be like to have a high blood alcohol content. He was asked to walk in a straight line while counting and failed.

Hunt said that Cornell is on the “cutting edge” of alcohol policy in the United States and that other colleges and universities look to Cornell for ideas on how to regulate the social scenes at their respective schools.

Hunt added that the use of posters on campus stressing social norms through student alcohol use statistics is a tool developed at Cornell that is beginning to spread to other campuses around the country. The information is used mainly to prevent binge drinking by students, he said.

IFC president Paul El-Meouchy ’04 said that the “training was good … it was better than I expected. It told guys how to party more but be safer.”

Taylor added, “The training is important because before, people [partied] underground. Now we are encouraging safety and giving incentives to follow the rules.”

When asked about the new BYOB policy on the Cornell campus, Hunt responded that it is a “great policy if people live up to it, and it is not if they don’t. So, step up to the plate.”

Archived article by Eric Finkelstein