KU fraternities vote to ban hard alcohol at chapter houses

Hard liquor will be banned from Kansas University fraternity houses starting this fall, the school’s Interfraternity Council decided.

The action, coupled with additional programs, addresses “three critical issues — alcohol abuse, cultural competence and sexual violence — in light of incidents involving Greek life at both a national and local level,” according to a statement from the Interfraternity Council, or IFC, which voted to approve it Tuesday night.

The ban prevents the presence or consumption of hard alcohol by any members or guests on fraternity property, according to the statement. It also includes an amnesty clause to encourage chapters to get help for anyone in need of medical assistance.

“The Interfraternity Council has been having extensive conversations for several months on creating healthier and safer environments, and we believe that this policy is a critical first step in changing the drinking culture within the Greek community,” IFC President Chris Pyle said in the statement. “I am very proud of our fraternity presidents for having the courage to pass this policy in an effort to make fraternity houses a safer place for all KU students.”

Of KU’s 23 fraternity chapters, 17 have official chapter houses, according to the IFC website.

A few houses already are dry, while others have specific rules about when alcohol can be consumed, according to the IFC. Tuesday’s IFC action does not ban beer and wine.

In addition to the hard alcohol ban, the IFC on Wednesday also announced the creation of a peer education program to address sexual violence within the greek community and a move to prohibit “offensive behavior,” potentially seen as culturally insensitive, at traditional serenades of sororities.

The IFC governs all current fraternity chapters at KU. The organization’s meetings are not open to the public.

KU fraternities have seen more than one negative incident linked to alcohol in recent years.

In perhaps the most tragic, Sigma Alpha Epsilon pledge Jason Wren died of alcohol poisoning at his chapter house in 2009. After drinking at a restaurant he continued drinking beers and carrying around a bottle of hard liquor at the house, his father told the Journal-World at the time.

Alcohol at fraternity houses also has been targeted as one culprit in the past year’s national conversation about campus sexual assault.

In December, KU placed Kappa Sigma fraternity on probation for two years following allegations of sexual assault at the house during a nonapproved social event over homecoming weekend, in which one or more victims was possibly impaired by alcohol. KU placed Kappa Sigma on probation for violating the school’s sexual misconduct policy, though the Lawrence Police Department’s case remains open and no individuals have been criminally charged.

A group of area KU fraternity and sorority alumni started talking about the hard alcohol issue last fall and suggested such a ban earlier this spring, said David Steen, Housing Corporation president for the KU chapter of Kappa Sigma fraternity.

During a meeting between alumni and current students in March, the idea was strongly supported by sorority women and met with mixed reviews by fraternity men, Steen said.

Steen and other fraternity alumni congratulated current members for overwhelmingly approving the hard alcohol ban.

Steen said the “responsible” decision would help fraternity members’ academic success and make houses more comfortable for their guests.

“The KU Interfraternity Council convincingly demonstrated its determination to make improvements in the environment among their fraternities,” Steen said. “I think this is particularly noteworthy because … fraternities are private facilities with a significant percent of their members at legal drinking age.”