By Lexi Kerzman and Rachel Newville
The North-American Interfraternity Council (NIC) will be implementing stricter guidelines on drinking at fraternity social events. These new rules banning hard liquor from fraternity facilities will start being enforced nationwide and at USD in the fall of 2019. Policy changes follow the death of a fraternity member of Beta Theta Pi at Pennsylvania State University.
USD currently has eight fraternities on campus. Five are members of the NIC. Laura Anderton, director of sorority and fraternity life and leadership, said that chapters opt into being apart of the NIC.
The fraternities currently not under the NIC at USD are Lambda Chi Alpha, Phi Delta Theta and Tau Kappa Epsilon.
Anderton said only the NIC member fraternities will be obligated to follow the new hard liquor policies and the remaining three will follow whatever new policy IFC implements.
“The NIC is the umbrella organizations for fraternities across the nation, they can opt into that umbrella organization,” she said. “On this campus, we have eight fraternities and five of those fraternities are opted into the NIC. So for those five fraternities, they will be under this new policy without question.”
Josh Anderson, Tau Kappa Epsilon president, said although their chapter is not under the NIC, they have a similar policy.
“Even though we’re not apart of the NIC, you’re looking at seeing a lot of fraternities and other organizations going this way, whether it’s on their own or they are apart of the larger organization,” Anderson said. “I think it’s a good thing everyone is trying to be not only reactive but proactive with what can happen when hard alcohol is put into the equation at a college setting.”
Riley Ackerman, president of USD’s Interfraternity Council, said they already started changing their bylaws last year, which leaves them in a good position for new changes to be implemented on campus.
“We were preemptive, and we started last year when we started changing our bylaws, and we’ve put ourselves in a good position to be able to follow NIC’s new rules,” Ackerman said.
The council will be developing new bylaws that will mimic the NIC changes. Ackerman said by implementing these new bylaws it will show that safety is a big priority to the council regardless of NIC’s regulations.
“(This will) show the university that regardless of NIC we’re ready to take this on,” Ackerman said. “ I think the whole part of it is that this is just a big conversation on how can we improve safety and culture in Greek life especially at USD. It is fine to have fun, but personal safety and responsibility are important.”
While all fraternities are enforcing the no hard liquor policy, Beta Theta Pi will have a nationwide transition to dry facilities where there will be no alcohol allowed in any part of their facilities.
The NIC is removing hard liquor from their facilities immediately and is banning them from hosting social events involving alcohol in common spaces as well. There is still a gray space on where the USD Beta Theta Pi chapter falls on this policy change because of the university policy involving drinking in private areas.
“Our university policies stipulate that you can have alcohol in your private spaces, but you cannot have events in your private rooms,” Anderton said. “There are a lot of risks having a party behind closed doors. We have been working with their nationals right now to see where they lie. Right now they are kind of in a holding pattern where they shouldn’t be having any events because their nationals say not in common places and we say only in common spaces.”
Beta Theta Pi will have to be completely dry before 2020, but there are still questions of where the USD chapter lies until then.
Jedidiah Jacobson president of Beta Theta Pi, said USD’s chapter is in agreement with the policy changes.
“All of us at the Gamma Alpha Chapter of Beta Theta Pi have kept the Piazza Family in our thoughts and prayers over the past year and a half. The events that occurred on Feb. 2 and 3, 2017 shocked the members of our chapter just as much as anyone else,” he said in an email to The Volante. “We uphold our members on this campus to the highest standard and have a zero-tolerance policy for hazing. Looking to the future, we will adhere to the changing NIC policies and to show that we stand in solidarity with the Piazza family, our facility will be completely alcohol free by 2020.”
Ackerman said he believes this was a necessary step in safety and thinks it will have the biggest effect on people who refuse to accept the changes.
“Some people may be upset with the change, but obviously it’s a necessary step for safety,” Ackerman said, “I think it will show how resilient greek life is and it shows that greeks can do a lot of good on campus.”
A welcoming community
Although this policy change came out of an incident related to hazing, Ackerman said he believes there is not a problem with hazing in the Greek community at USD.
“USD Greek life is unique in the sense that each chapter is different, but we are all one big community that looks out for each other,” Ackerman said. “No one wants to see anyone get in trouble within the community, and with that, I think, there is not an issue with underground hazing in our community.”
Anderton said while these policy changes have stemmed nationally out of incidents, for South Dakota they have been more of preventative measures. She said having positive student leaders is what makes USD’s Greek community unique to other organizations across the nation.
“I have been here six years now, and part of the reason I continue to stay and work with this community is that we have such amazing, rational leaders who really do come to the table and do want to work with us,” Anderton said. “Our student leaders really are stepping up to the plate and want to implement actions before they are forced.”
There are still questions on how the new policy will be enforced at USD. Anderton said it’s important to have students buy-in because otherwise, the policy will not be successful.
“Implementation-wise, we are still talking with our leaders on who is going to monitor it, how are they going to regulate it and whose responsibility is it going to be to regulate it,” Anderton said. “We in all honestly don’t have great answers at this point. We really want to make sure we have students buy-in from this. We really need to get leadership by in on how they want to see.”
Anderson said in order to successfully enforce this policy it will take a culture change.
“I think the most beneficial way would be realizing it’s an adjustment,” Anderson said. “It is going to have to be a common understanding that is going to have to come about over time and coincide with a culture change that comes about where obviously no one should be consuming large amount hard alcohol. I think it is going to take kind of a culture change not only at USD but at other universities as well.”
Ackerman said the policy will affect not only the fraternities on campus but the whole facet of Greek life. He also said it will take members having personal responsibility in order to make this policy successful.
“That’s the thing with this new NIC thing, it’s kind of a make or breaks moment for NIC nationally,” Ackerman said. “I have faith that USD will be fine. It’s going to be either get on board or people might come to (rush), which I think is good. I don’t think it’s good to have members that are just there to drink. We’re just lucky that we have an opportunity to have higher education. It’s good to see kids actually want to help the community in whatever field they study to at least use their opportunities to improve the lives of others. It’s not just Greek letters and beer.”