At UVa's fraternity parties: No more kegs, punch or party-crashers

Under new rules aimed at curbing sexual assault and excessive drinking, fraternities must tone down their parties

University of Virginia Greek students will be partying a little less hard when spring semester begins Monday. Under proposed rules, kegs of beer and premixed punch will be banned at fraternity parties, as will hard liquor at larger events, unless served by hired licensed bartenders.

On Tuesday, UVa President Teresa A. Sullivan ended the suspension on fraternity social activities, on the condition that each fraternity and sorority signs off on the new rules, which were developed by the Inter-Fraternity Council.

“I believe the new safety measures recommended by the student leaders in the Greek community will help provide a safer environment for their members and guests,” she said in a statement.

The status of popular drinking games like beer pong and flip cup are unclear under the new rules. Beer must be served "unopened, in its original can." But the measures don't explicitly prohibit the beer being later poured into cups.
Laura Bittner/Flickr

A UVa fraternity member, who asked to be anonymous because of the controversy of these issues on campus following a disputed Rolling Stone article, said he and his brothers largely considered the measures reasonable. But he added that there was a lot of frustration among fraternity members that the university made them such a target, especially after the account of an alleged gang rape at a fraternity house, which sparked the most outrage, was found to be riddled with inconsistencies. 

"We're not going to lose sleep over it. We're happy to make changes as any group should be," he said. "But [the Rolling Stone article] shouldn't have been the catalyst for our change. The efforts were misguided and uninformed. The first changes should have been about police involvement and the university's reporting of sexual assaults."

Also under the new rules, at least three fraternity members at every party must be "sober and lucid" and designated with a visual marker. A sober brother must be charged with monitoring the stairs and have key access to every room in the house. Food and bottled water must be provided. And under the section "Eliminating Discomfort and Chaos," the agreement requires fraternities to keep a guest list and hire a security agent for bigger events.

Under the policy, fraternity party traditions like potent "jungle juice" and the keg stand will be things of the past. At large parties, if there's no third-party bartender, the only permissible drinks are cans of beer and wine served by a sober brother.

We're not going to lose sleep over it. But I think the need for the changes is misguided.

Anonymous UVa fraternity member

In the preface to the new rules, the Intra-Fraternity Council stated: "We seek to achieve a safe environment at fraternity events by addressing high-risk drinking, sexual misconduct and unhealthy power structures. These changes are not comprehensive – nor do they claim to be. Instead, we submit these reforms as the next step in the IFC’s commitment to guaranteeing a baseline of safety for fraternity members and our guests."

The Inter-Fraternity Council Judiciary Committee, a student-run board, will be responsible for disciplining any infractions, the anonymous fraternity brother told America Tonight. But it's unclear who will monitor the parties for possible violations since UVa fraternity houses are privately owned.

"The biggest consideration in the fraternity regulations was to make them something the students would actually do," said Ryan Duffin, a UVa fraternity member who helped draft the new rules. "People are happy with the immediate response, but the biggest thing people may have a problem with is relying on self-regulation of new fraternity rules."

[UVA put the focus] on a very easy target: white males, mostly wealthy, who can probably take the heat. UVA saw that as an acceptable risk.

Anonymous UVA fraternity member

UVa suspended all its fraternities in November, and that was the just the start of the backlash. The Phi Kappi Psi house, the site of the alleged rape in the Rolling Stone article, was vandalized with the words "SUSPEND US" and "UVa Center for Rape Studies." The anonymous fraternity student, who is not in Phi Kapp Psi, said he heard the house also received death threats, and its members slept on friends' couches during finals.

"[The suspension of fraternities] shifted focus from an actual problem with UVA… A problem with the university's reporting of sexual assault cases," said the anonymous fraternity member. "They put it on a very easy target: white males, mostly wealthy, who can probably take the heat. UVA saw that as an acceptable risk. They saw that as an acceptable risk to refuse the rights of assembly of a whole group."

Under fire, the members of UVa's Greek community have remained largely mum. The president of the Intra-Fraternity Council, Thomas Reid, has been the primarily spokesman for the community, and he's struck a conciliatory stance, publicly stating: "Sexual assault is a serious cultural problem in fraternities."

"I think it was a calculated statement that the UVa administration was happy to hear," said the anonymous fraternity member. "…That line is not only patently false, I think it's offensive to a group of people that I know in the fraternity system, who are some of the most upstanding members of the community that I know."

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