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The Problem With An Alcohol Moratorium

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The last several weeks, obviously coinciding with spring rush, have brought a slew of “X University Puts All Fraternities on Alcohol Prohibition Following (insert incident here)” stories. The letter above is another in the ongoing parade of these stories. Today, I’m taking the time to highlight why these bans don’t actually work at all, and potentially work against the very idea these schools have set out to implement.

First off, any time you say to an organization or group of people that something is completely forbidden, they’re going to, out of sheer rebellion, go out and probably do a ton of that thing. Unless, of course, the thing being banned is like DDT, or something. Then the six idiots dumb enough to huff a can of that stuff self-nominate themselves for a Darwin Award. When we’re talking normal vices though, it sets up that age-old forbidden fruit scenario, and probably creates a bunch of “Fuck the Police/DFSL” themed ragers.

Now, I’m not saying social moratorium isn’t warranted when a chapter fucks up big. We’re not immortal, and occasionally we all need a reminder of that so we don’t try every weekend to drink enough and do enough drugs in one night that we make the entire Norse pantheon of gods bitch out. Risk management, as much as we all hate it, is actually key to making sure our organizations are there to turn our sons into the kind of men we are becoming, even if it does mean some poor fucker plays babysitter while the rest of us spend the evening making Sodom and Gomorrah look like a lovely picnic in the park.

All of that said: fuck the campus wide alcohol prohibition that so many schools are fond of. For those who manage risk well, you’re being punished for putting in the work to even nominally follow the rules. Those chapters that are dicking around and putting everyone else at risk fuck the whole community along with their chapter, but they usually don’t care. So, they continue throwing parties after and rolling the dice on charter revocation, but they still end up getting to have their cake and eat it too, essentially. For those of us whose chapters prefer to keep our charters, it means we either have to work harder to manage risk and change our systems further, or shut down for the duration of the ban.

Which brings me to my main point:

No one is penalized here but the people following the rules and managing their shit.

In the case of the letter above, the infractions were as follows:
– serving jungle juice
– serving people underage
– people getting really drunk at parties
– purchasing alcohol from chapter funds

Technically, only 3 of these things are illegal (well, common sources are illegal here, anyway, your mileage may vary), and they are all things that will happen at universities whether there is a ban on alcohol-fueled events or not. People don’t respond well to prohibition, as evidenced by America’s roaring 20s and the global War on Drugs. While most of us probably don’t think hardcore drug use is something you want to encourage, banning it and trying to physically dismantle the cartels has not gone well for us, because the market remains. Getting back to my point: prohibitions create black markets, and black markets are incredibly profitable.

In the case of these kinds of bans, the “black market” is just a re-arranging of the social scene. The parties will not stop. The way they’re hosted will change, the major players hosting them will probably change, but the actions themselves will continue, as well they should. Punishing the community for the infractions of a few has always been the wrong way to handle things. Our justice system doesn’t operate that way, our nation wasn’t founded on this principal of punishment, and it goes against the ideals we embrace. Punish the offenders who can’t handle risk management or can’t keep their parties under control, and move on. This prohibition, instead, will create an environment with fewer, higher risk parties where the attendees will want to get rebelliously drunk in spite of the rules, and probably result in the kinds of shit that caused problems in the first place.

Schools want to fix the problems? Don’t ban alcohol. Don’t ban parties. Come up with a reasonable social policy. FIPG, for the record, is not reasonable. It’s safe, not reasonable, and honestly it’s only safe from a liability standpoint. We pay our universities billions every year, collectively, in tuition. You think with all that money, and all those administrators, they could come up with something that serves our social needs better.

In closing, to borrow a bit, with minor edits, from Animal House:

“You see, if this is an indictment of our community as a whole, than isn’t this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, overprotective university administrators – isn’t this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we’re not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America!”

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