Colleges that have banned hard alcohol say the step has helped combat some of the most pernicious effects of campus drinking. They report less consumption, fewer alcohol-induced medical transports, hospitalizations and arrests, as well as a decrease in binge drinking and other high-risk behaviors. So the recent decision by a major association representing fraternities to no longer allow hard liquor at chapter houses or events is a welcome step, even if it is long overdue.
The North-American Interfraternity Conference, the trade association that represents 66 international and national men’s fraternities, announced last week that its members had given near-unanimous approval to a resolution prohibiting “alcohol products above 15 percent A.B.V.” from being present in any chapter facility or chapter event unless sold by a licensed third party. The ban, which will go into effect by Sept. 1, 2019, applies to both common areas and private living spaces, whether or not students are over the legal drinking age of 21. Chapters on 800 campuses will be affected.
The new policy was announced the same week that the family of Pennsylvania State University student Timothy Piazza settled a lawsuit with a national fraternity that stemmed from the 19-year-old’s death last year during a hazing ritual. Made to consume large amounts of alcohol, including vodka, the sophomore engineering student suffered injuries to his brain and spleen after he fell down stairs and was left unattended by other students. A doctor calculated that his blood-alcohol content was about four times the legal limit for driving.
A ban on hard liquor won’t cure all the problems caused by underage drinking. Beer, wine and malt beverages, all still allowed.
As fraternities spend the coming year developing plans to implement and enforce the hard-liquor ban, they would also do well to study what other measures are needed to make campuses and fraternities safer.