January 27, 2013

Panhel: New Members Cannot Be in Presence of Alcohol

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Correction appended

The period that new members of sororities will not be allowed to consume alcohol, or be in the presence of alcohol, has been reduced from eight to six weeks.

The Panhellenic Council, the regulating body of Cornell’s sororities, notified chapter officers of the policy change at a meeting Wednesday. The length of the new member education period was the only “significant change” to Panhel policy, according to Hillary Pond ’14, vice president of judicial affairs and standards for Panhel.

She said that punishments for violations of the policy will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

“The new member period should be a fun time for the women to get to know other women in their new member classes, as well as older sisters,” she said. “The main reason for the ‘dry’ policy, however, is safety. We are trying to foster a safer and more positive Panhellenic community.”

Naomi Jawahar ’16, a new member of Alpha Chi Omega, said she is supportive of the policy.

“[Panhellenic doesn’t] want us to feel pressured to drink,” she said. “Also, this is a good time for us to [get to] know other members of our pledge class without drinking alcohol.”

However, the policy does not extend to fraternity formals and events, according to an email sent by Emma Carver ’14, executive vice president Panhellenic Council, to all sororities’ vice presidents of new member education.

“The best way that I can put the rules is that no new members may be in the presence of alcohol regardless of where or how many people there are. Formals may be an exception,” the email said. “You should not in any way encourage your members to go, but it is the frats’ responsibility not to invite them.”

The exclusion of fraternity events from the policy is due to Panhellenic Council’s lack of jurisdiction on fraternity property, according to Elysha Rothenberg, vice president of standards at Kappa Delta.

“It is the [Interfraternity Council’s] and the fraternities’ responsibility to not invite new members for formals,” Rothenberg said. “Panhellenic doesn’t have jurisdiction over what happens on fraternity grounds.”

Pond echoed Rothenberg’s sentiments, saying that the IFC has the responsibility to ask fraternities to not invite new members of sororities.

“Panhellenic cannot [oversee] what happens in fraternity houses. That falls under the jurisdiction of the IFC,” Pond said. “The IFC should be telling fraternities that they are not allowed to invite freshmen women to formals and events.”

Moreover, new members of sororities “are young adults and should be smart enough to judge for themselves,” according to Sarah Balik, vice president of new member education at Alpha Epsilon Phi.

“We realize that we cannot control every aspect of our new members’ lives,” she said. “If it is not an affiliated event, then I [as vice president of new member education] cannot [oversee] that. But they should be responsible for themselves.”

Besides, Balik said, most of the new members are underage.

“Another way to look at it is that very few new members or newly-initiated members are over the age of 21, so they shouldn’t be involved in the consumption of alcohol under any circumstances anyway,” she said.

Correction: Due to incorrect information provided to The Sun, this article previously stated that the Panhellenic Council announced a new policy that new members of sororities would be banned from being in the presence of alcohol for the first six weeks of membership. In fact, this policy has already been in place. This error led to factual errors in the article, as well as quotes from several sources who mistakenly believed that the policy was new. These errors have been corrected or removed.

Original Author: Manu Rathore