Vice Squad
Sunday, January 09, 2005
Frats and Booze: Wildcats Tamed

Speaking of cover stories, today's New York Times Magazine offers an article about the spread of temperate and even officially dry college fraternities, if that phrase isn't excessively oxymoronic. The impetus for the battle against alcohol is what you would expect, concern with binge drinking and the tragedies that follow in its wake. (And maybe one concern you wouldn't expect -- at least immediately: the high insurance rates and litigation costs for frats that serve alcohol.) The author spent a few weeks at Northwestern University, which I understand is somewhere in the Midwestern section of the US. A brief sample:
Of the 17 fraternities now at Northwestern, 13 are alcohol-free, and any new chapter starting at the school also must be dry. (In 1997, not a single Northwestern fraternity was dry.) Across the country, some 30 colleges -- including the University of Iowa, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Oregon -- have gone even further, banning alcohol in all their fraternity houses. (Some have also made their residence halls alcohol-free.) And many schools are increasingly placing fraternities on probation, requiring that they meet specific academic and behavioral standards. Others are moving fraternity rush from fall to winter, heeding the words of the Arizona Supreme Court, which in 1994 opined that "we are hardpressed to find a setting where the risk of an alcohol-related injury is more likely than from under-age drinking at a university fraternity party the first week of the new college year." To try to combat the tendency of fraternity members to simply move their parties to off-campus apartments and houses, university officials are also cooperating more than ever with the local police.

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