Sororities must keep their houses alcohol-free, a far cry from the rules regulating fraternities. But not all sorority members think this needs to changed.
The National Panhellenic Conference mandates in its “Policies and Best Practices” document that Panhellenic funds cannot be spent on “alcoholic beverages for any purpose.” Fraternities face no such regulation from the North-American Interfraternity Conference.
Executive Director of NPC Dani Weatherford added that this rule only applies to the organizations’ “living units.” Sororities can host social events at off-campus venues or through third parties.
College junior and Panhellenic Council President Caroline Ohlson said many chapter members are unperturbed by this difference in regulations.
“This is definitely something that I have talked to leaders in every sorority in our campus about and the consensus that I’ve gotten unanimously from chapter members is that sororities would not want to host parties,” Ohlson said. “They don’t want to deal with costs associated, risk management or the damage it could create.”
However, College sophomore and Chi Omega member Jamie McCann said she feels the difference in rules regarding alcohol use in chapter houses gives fraternities a degree of social power.
“I, for one, don’t want to have to deal with parties at my house,” McCann said. “But it also places us in an uncomfortable position where we have to rely on boys for parties and alcohol and that can definitely create an uncomfortable power dynamic.”
College sophomore and member of off-campus organization OAX Abby McGuckin agreed, adding she thinks people who go to fraternity parties feel a sense of debt towards the house hosting the event.
“The brothers host this party and it’s free, but its transactional,” McGuckin said. “I have a feeling that you have to pay something back. There is definitely a cost associated with it.”
Weatherford said these rules for sororities stem from the context in which sororities were founded — a time when restrictions for women were more stringent.
An NPC document on the history of the organization said sororities were founded during a time of “restrictive social customs, unequal status under the law and the underlying presumption that they were less able than men.”
“Sororities were founded at a time when women on college campuses were, at best, only grudgingly accepted by their male peers,” Weatherford said in an email statement. “As a result, our primary purpose was to equip our members to persevere in an environment that was anything but welcoming.”
Widespread social change in the 1960s and 1970s meant that universities were no longer expected to act “in loco parentis” — establishing curfews and other policies — but instead take a more hands-off approach to monitoring student behavior. In response, fraternities and sororities had to search for new ways to encourage students to make responsible choices.
In 1975 the NPC in the recruitment process. This continued into the 1990s with resolutions adopted at its 1997, 1998 and 2001 sessions to encourage alcohol-free social events.
Weatherford defended the policies that ban alcohol from chapter houses.
“Those policies are not only national best practices, but they mirror countless university policies already in place nationwide,” Weatherford said in an email statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian. “For social functions, our member groups’ goals are simple: to make sure that they create an environment that is safe – particularly if alcohol is present.”
The NIC places no regulations on member fraternities mandating them to keep their chapter houses substance-free. However, they are prohibited from “alcohol and drug use at any formal, informal and summer/break recruitment activities” according to the NIC’s position statement on recruitment.
The NIC did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The Interfraternity Council did not respond to requests for comment.
Ohlson said that although no chapter member has yet questioned the validity of the substance-free policy, should any member want to, she would be open to discuss it with them.
“I think they should feel empowered to do so,” Ohlson said. “I definitely encourage them to voice that opinion and I would be happy to help if that’s something people want.”
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