Editorial: Ban alcohol permanently

The Interfraternity Council at the University of Kansas was right to impose an activities freeze on its 24 fraternities at the university for the spring semester.

But a one-semester freeze isn’t enough to break the systemic culture of substance abuse, hazing and sexual assault that plagues these organizations. For meaningful and lasting change to occur, fraternities must follow the lead of sororities and ban all alcohol at their houses and at their events and do away with pledging. Only then will fraternities become known for the positive service and philanthropy projects they undertake instead of the alcohol-induced bad behavior their members often engage in.

Under the freeze put in place Monday, all fraternity social activities will be paused. Only chapter meetings, philanthropic events and service events are allowed. Fraternity members who live in fraternity houses may continue to live in those houses.

“The University of Kansas has a proud tradition of greek life, and IFC chapters are integral to the KU community and the development of the men involved in them,” said Daniel Lee, IFC president. “But it has become clear there are significant and systemic conduct problems in the IFC community that we must address, and we must address them now.”

The IFC and the university haven’t released details explaining what prompted the freeze. What is known is that the national Sigma Alpha Epsilon organization announced last Thursday that it was closing its longtime KU chapter at 1301 West Campus Road after numerous “health and safety violations.”

The SAE chapter’s closure followed the suspension of two other KU fraternities since the start of the spring semester, Delta Upsilon and Sigma Phi Epsilon. A fourth KU fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, is facing possible suspension, though the reasons for that status change remain unclear.

KU’s organizational conduct status report keeps a list of sanctions imposed on campus organizations found to have violated the KU Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities. According to the report, nine fraternities have been sanctioned by the university since the 2014-2015 school year. Two of those fraternities, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Delta Upsilon, show up in the report twice.

Sororities at KU don’t have the same issues their fraternity brothers face. That’s in large part because the National Panhellenic Conference, the governing organization of most sororities, first adopted an alcohol ban for sorority houses in 1975.

Fraternities have been reluctant to follow suit. KU’s fraternities have implemented a ban on hard liquor, but the IFC hasn’t shown the courage to implement a ban on all alcohol. Until it does, expect dangerous incidents, fueled by the volatile mix of alcohol and immaturity, to continue on fraternity row.