August 25, 2011

Greek Leaders Say New Rules Will Imperil Open Frat Parties

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The future of open parties looks uncertain as fraternities adapt to the recent restrictions on social events announced by Cornell this month, members of the Greek system said.

At an Interfraternity Council meeting Wednesday evening, fraternity leaders said they will need to get creative this semester to adapt to some of the most recent changes — most notably, the prohibition of freshmen from open parties.

“At least for us, open parties may cease to exist,” Phi Gamma Delta Social Chair Will Letzler ’14 said. “They are a huge financial investment, they can cost thousands of dollars and the reason we have them is so that freshmen can see the houses, meet some of the brothers and learn more about Greek life.”

In accordance with the new regulations, as explained at the meeting Wednesday, fraternities will be required to use ID scanners at open parties to ensure that students entering their houses are not freshmen — and to determine which students are under the legal drinking age.

Freshmen will be turned away at the door. Students who are 21 or older will receive wristbands, stamped hands or some other marking to indicate they may legally consume alcohol served at the party.

At an open forum in Sept. 2010 to discuss the changes to the Greek system, Travis Apgar, associate dean of students for fraternity and sorority affairs, said that all the changes align with the rules of chapters’ national organizations, as well as state laws

Ryan Burkard ’14, Phi Sigma Kappa’s social chair, echoed officers from other houses who said that their chapters would have to limit or altogether eliminate open parties this semester as a result of the freshmen ban.

In the first quarter of the academic year, freshmen will not be allowed to attend any events. In the second quarter, they will only be allowed to attend events where alcohol is not involved.

Letzler said he is concerned that if fraternities are unable to engage freshmen during the fall semester, the rush process will be far more hectic and stressful in January.

“We will never be willing to risk our standing as a fraternity by breaking the rules, but we also want to be competitive during rush,” Letzler said. “It certainly is going to pose a challenge.”

Some within the Greek community have argued that open parties are in fact one of the safer ways to monitor drinking on campus.

Blumenthal said that one of his biggest issues with the freshmen ban is that it will likely encourage first-year students to move their alcohol use to unsafe environments such as apartments in Collegetown.

“Open parties in my opinion are one of the safest events you can run as a fraternity president,” Blumenthal said. “You have to hire bouncers, have a minimum of sober monitors, monitor closely for the presence of hard alcohol.”

At the September 2010 forum, Susan Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services, said that off-campus events are not inherently more dangerous that on-campus parties.

For future open parties, the administration has purchased 10 scanners — which scan Cornell ID cards only — to be loaned to fraternities upon registering open events.

The scanners are standard card readers attached to an iPod Touch. An app installed on the iPod will be able to access University information stored on student ID cards and indicate a student’s class and age.

The app — which requires WiFi to work — can be logged onto with a Cornell Net ID and password.

Fraternity officers and sober monitors will be able to access the app for a set time during which the event takes place. While private security guards will not be able to access the app themselves, they will be able to use the device to scan IDs at the door.

Some fraternity officers have suggested there will be an increase in what are called “lower risk events” — including dry and philanthropy events — to keep informal recruitment alive during the second quarter.

“I think at first we’re going to have to just feel it out and see what these new decisions are going to do,” Burkard, the Phi Sigma Kappa social chair, said. “We’re going to be particularly cautious, take it into stride and just hope it all works out.”

Original Author: Rebecca Harris