Fraternities at UC San Diego and San Diego State University, out to lower their insurance bills and perhaps their raucous image, recently have adopted tougher policies regarding alcohol use, sexual abuse and hazing.
The 13 fraternities at UCSD, for example, last week adopted a risk-management policy that would prohibit using fraternity funds to purchase alcohol, would disallow the purchase of bulk alcohol such as beer kegs and prohibit open parties with alcohol. “Fraternities right now are ranked next to nuclear waste distributors as risk liabilities, and we are trying to reduce that,” said Greg Stein, president of UCSD’s Inter-Fraternity Council, the self-governing body for the university’s Greek organizations.
The Fraternity Insurance Purchasing Group, or FIPG policy as it’s called, has been adopted by many national fraternities. But UCSD’s fraternities are the first local chapters from a large California university to have accepted them.
The UCSD policy took effect last week. A similar policy at SDSU fraternities goes into effect July 1.
Along with provisions regulating alcohol use, FIPG prohibits demeaning and humiliating hazing practices, the possession, sale or use of illegal drugs and sexual abuse.
“Nationally, fraternities and sororities are dealing with the area of risk management, and many of them are dealing with it very aggressively,” said Paul DeWine, UCSD’s student organization adviser.
“The groups are going to be dealing with alcohol in a more responsive manner and enforcing the policy themselves,” DeWine said.
Although most agree that the policy takes a progressive approach, they emphasize that this does not resolve all of the difficulties that fraternities have had regarding alcohol use.
Alcohol abuse “is going to happen no matter what the rules are, and not just with the fraternities. It’s not what the fraternities are (about), necessarily, but it happens,” said Rick Meyreles, president of the UCSD chapter of Phi Delta Theta.
But loopholes in the simply worded, one-page policy could result in continued problems, said Doug Case, adviser to the fraternities at SDSU.
“Students have a novel way of trying to find ways around the rules,” Case said. FIPG “is not a cure-all, and it is important to have a way of implementing and managing the policies to avoid negative side effects,” he said.
The FIPG policy was developed by the national fraternities four years ago and has been adopted by 35 of the more than 50 national fraternities and sororities, said Dunward Owen, executive director of national Pi Kappa Phi.
Fraternities realized that increasing risks of litigation forced them to come to grapple with risk management, but they came “reluctantly and with a lot of foot-dragging,” Owen said.
“Whenever you are dealing with 18- to 25-year-old students, you are dealing with high-risk areas. So many professional organizations are going towards insurance pools, and so it would only be natural for students to move towards that,” Owen said.
Eventually, fraternities hope to to be able to buy insurance as a group, thereby getting group rates, and FIPG as a risk-management policy will show insurance companies that they have taken steps to lower risk, Owen said.
“The need for FIPG was there 30 or 40 years ago, but fraternities were not under the microscope that they have been recently, and sometimes for good reasons,” said Sidney Dunn of the Fraternity Executives Assn., based in Indiana.
Dunn said the basic tenets of the FIPG rules are common sense, such as not buying beer by the keg when three-quarters of the fraternity membership dues come from members who are not legally allowed to buy alcohol, Dunn said.
The new policy also may encourage fraternities to return to their original purpose for existence.
“Parties really weren’t a part of fraternities at all, and FIPG has really called into question whether fraternities are going to maintain their role as party brokers and be the social providers for college campuses, or if they are going to go back to developing better men,” said Craig Peters, president of the UCSD chapter of Sigma Nu.
Fraternities at UCSD know that, without a comprehensive risk-management policy, it’s just a matter of time before a major incident involving the fraternities occurs, Peters said.
But, although fraternities claim they have made great strides in the last few years in moderating their party practices, the policies of many sororities go beyond what UCSD fraternities have adopted.
For example, the FIPG policy still allows alcohol to be brought to parties, but it may only be consumed by people of drinking age.
“While in theory, that should be OK, it has its own risks for abuse,” said Jean Gaines, an officer of the national Delta Delta Delta sorority.
Many sororities have gone the extra step of banning the bringing of alcohol to sorority functions, except under specific circumstances, Gaines said.
“At a function where they feel that alcohol should be part of it, we require that it be served under the auspices of a licensed bartender. The alcohol would be purchased by each individual, whose identification is checked by the person selling the drink,” Gaines said.