November 27, 2003

Stress On the BYOB Policy

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BYOB has been the word on many Cornellian’s lips since September, when the Multicultural Greek Letter Council joined the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Association in voting to make Cornell a bring-your-own-beverage campus. The policy has weathered stress in the past two months, as members of the Cornell University Police Department, the administration and representatives of the Greek system have attempted to cope with the loss of the only caterer available and the unwillingness of the New York State Liquor Authority to issue permits to caterers with a poor track record.

“The BYOB policy was instituted this fall so that chapters would have a way to hold relatively small parties without having to hire a caterer to serve alcohol,” said Timothy Marchell, director of alcohol policy initiatives at Gannett: Cornell University Health Services. “After the BYOB policy started, the only active caterer lost its liquor license due to violations. So that leaves chapters with few options.”

At its introduction, the BYOB policy seemed to be an answer to the problem of the small party. While some fraternities were able to finance the high costs of catering parties, many were unable to — often leading to underground and illegal gatherings.

“The students probably have one perspective as to why [BYOB] was originally needed,” said Susan Murphy ’73, vice president of student and academic services. “From where I sit, we were seeing a monopoly. The caterers were charging high fees so frats were saying ‘if you want us to have small parties there needs to be another way.’ We wanted to provide an incentive and structure in which fraternities could register their parties where they had been doing so underground and to establish consequences for violations.”

“BYOB overall has been a step forward; however, it’s not without its challenges. We’re working on the glitches and that’s going to take a little more time and understanding [of] social policy,” said Michael Taylor ’05, IFC vice president of University and community relations. “It got a lot more stress put on it after the one [remaining] catering company got taken out. Now the only way anyone can have a party is through BYOB.”

By passing the BYOB policy, Cornell joined many other schools around the country, including the University of Pennsylvania and Syracuse University, which also require partygoers to bring their own beverages.

“I think we have a good chance of keeping the policy because its main focus is to get rid of hard liquor and kegs from parties, keeping beer, wine, wine coolers and other bottled malt beverages to make parties safer,” said Paul El-Meouchy ’04, president of the IFC. “Chapters were doing these kinds of parties last year underground and when they got caught they would get in trouble. We felt it would be more beneficial to legalize these parties in our system by ensuring a safety control on these events.”

El-Meouchy added that the policy seems to have helped in that respect.

“I can tell you that we have seen a significant decrease, by three fold, in the number of judicial cases, which is great. The chapters do know what is expected of them, the most important [components are] not having hundreds of hundreds of people at their parties, no kegs and no hard liquor,” El-Meouchy said. “The chapters that don’t register their events or break one of the above expectations get a pretty hefty sanction and it has been administered to a few.”

As it stands though, BYOB is the only policy available to partygoers.

“[Chapters] can hold a BYOB event, have their event in a licensed establishment, or find a licensed and insured caterer who can get a permit from the State Liquor Authority to do the event in a fraternity. However, those caterers are in very short supply, if they are available at all,” Marchell said.

The lack of options has created a pressing need for members of the IFC, Panhel and MGLC and the CUPD to work together so that the policy will not be compromised, as it enables more safety at parties.

CUPD Lt. Mike Musci has been meeting every two weeks with Leo Pedraza, assistant dean of fraternity and sorority affairs, to asses the situation.

“Many fraternities are dependent on social events for recruitment events and our job at the office is to show them how they can be successful without these parties, show them that there are positive ways to bring in new members, and to disassociate this view of big parties and successful recruitment,” Pedraza said.

The Alumni Interfraternity Council, which meets three times a year — most recently at Homecoming — has devoted a subcommittee to brainstorm ideas and suggestions for action next semester.

“The concern of the Fraternity-Sorority Advisory Council, [a separate organization that is also dealing with BYOB] was that if you’re having a party with five hundred or more people it’s going to be impossible to handle,” Murphy said. “I hope we can find a way that we can continue some form of a third party catering system. At this point we’re looking into other caterers and figuring out how we can try to enable this to happen.”

“The [Liquor Authority] wants Cornell to find a reputable caterer that will do its job,” El-Meouchy said. “I would like to see catering come back because they are what allow the chapters to throw a large scale event and to serve other stuff than beer and wine. We are still working on our plan of action in that regard and I think a solution will come soon.”

Both Marchell and Musci confirmed that efforts are being made to identify outside security agencies, such as Chestnut Street Security — used by Colgate and Syracuse Universities — and figure out what role they might be able to play at BYOB events.

Archived article by Logan Bromer