March 14, 2013

Sororities See Surge in Medical Transports

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After an uptick in the number of alcohol-related medical transports last weekend, some students in the Panhellenic community raised concerns that rules prohibiting sorority members from being in the presence of alcohol may inadvertently encourage binge drinking.

The school year is split into quarters, with each quarter having a different goal to enable freshman women to have a safe transition into the Greek community, according to Carlin Van Holmes ’14, president of the Panhellenic Council. The rules of the third quarter — which ended March 3 — explicitly state that new members, even those of legal drinking age, are not allowed to be in the presence of alcohol during the six-week period.

Van Holmes said in an email sent out to sororities March 8 that “reports from last [Thursday] night reflect a high number of alcohol-related transports, notably more so than the Panhellenic community saw during the third quarter.” She said in an interview with The Sun that the purpose of the email was not to be punitive, but to be precautionary.

Some students, reflecting on the medical transports, said they think the six-week dry period spurs binge drinking, leading to a higher number of alcohol-related transports when it ends.

“I think the dry period is arguably effective, but I think it leads to binge drinking immediately after it ends,” said Olivia Wherry ’16, a newly-initiated member in the Greek community.

Kristen Powers ’14, president of the Kappa Alpha Theta fraternity, said the six-week “dry period” also prevents new members from learning to develop responsibility for themselves while drinking.

“High risk drinking is a major concern within Greek life. However, rather than teaching new members how to make responsible decisions and develop into responsible adults, we spent six weeks giving our women rigid guidelines and sheltering them from Cornell’s social scene,” Powers said.

Van Holmes said that while “the quarter system is designed to increase safety, it also does create a bit of a dichotomy, because the pressure [of the rules of the third quarter] is taken off” during the fourth quarter.

Van Holmes, however, said that she was unsure if the medical transports were “in relation to the Panhellenic community at all.” She added that her intention in sending her email to all sororities was to “make a preemptive note about safety.”

Safety, she said, remains important in the fourth quarter of the year, when new members are officially initiated into their chapters and are no longer restricted from being in the presence of alcohol.

Van Holmes said that the quarter system –– which was first introduced three years ago –– is a policy that was developed by the National College Health Improvement Project’s Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking, an initiative formed in 2011 to “address the problem of high-risk drinking on college campuses,” according to the project’s website.

“[The goal] of the 3rd quarter is to foster a cohesion with the new member class and allow them to have a safe introduction [into the Greek community] without any pressures of alcohol,” Van Holmes added.

Olivia Wherry ’16, a newly-initiated member into the Greek community, said the dry period –– despite being “awkward” –– helped her form bonds with members of her pledge class.

“I have to admit, I enjoyed [the dry period] a bit because it helped me get closer with the girls in my pledge class.

Powers said that while it is important to “measure any new initiatives by the positive results that they create,” she was “not sure that positive results are what we are seeing.”

Van Holmes stressed that at this point in the year, Panhellenic’s main goal is to emphasize safety and responsibility, encouraging members of the Greek community, male and female alike, to look out for one another.

Despite disagreements with the policy, Van Holmes said that this year’s dry period was a success, adding that all chapters were willing to cooperate with the rules.

“I am extremely impressed with the effort that every chapter put into upholding all the tenets of the third quarter and really appreciate all of their effort,” Van Holmes said.

Original Author: Sarah Sassoon