COLUMBIA — Alcohol will be permitted at MU fraternity houses beginning in August 2012 — but only if the houses meet an accreditation process through the Office of Greek Life.
The decision was recently passed by the MU Interfraternity Council and allows fraternity houses, if they choose, to have alcohol on the premises.
Beginning with the Greek Life Strategic Plan in spring, an alcohol work group was assigned to look at current alcohol policies within the Greek community and determine what was and wasn't working, Janna Basler, assistant director of Greek Life and Leadership, said.
The accreditation process will include requirements for academics, risk management and alcohol education, Basler said. For example, chapters would have to meet GPA requirements, attend alcohol presentations and have judicial standards in place.
"The organization will have to go through a process to be able to allow it," Basler said. "Some chapters have decided they're not going to have alcohol."
All chapters will still have to abide by the national rules required for each.
Steven Glynias, president of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, said he sees the new policy as a better way to enforce rules about alcohol. Glynias was a member of the alcohol work group that drafted the policy. The group focused on whether to enforce the current policy or to change it, Glynias said.
"There was really no enforcement," Glynias said of the old policy. "You weren't actually being monitored, and it resulted in lots of people breaking rules and huge violations going unnoticed. This will actually be enforced."
Fraternity houses will be subject to random checks, or audits, by an outside security firm. The security firm representative, who will be accompanied by a member of the fraternity's executive board, will observe and report activities within the houses. The representative will not be permitted to enter any closed rooms without permission.
If something stands out during the audit, such as an excessive number of people drinking at a party, the security firm will submit reports to the students, alumni and Office of Student Conduct, Basler said.
Basler said Signal 88 Security might partner with the Office of Greek Life to carry out the audits, but there is currently no official agreement. The security firm has been hired in the past by alumni of various fraternities to perform similar checks, Basler said.
Andrew Schutte, president of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, sees the new policy as a viable option. The chapter would have to go through its housing corps and determine if its lease permits alcohol on the premises, Schutte said.
"I think it's a first step in controlling alcohol in the fraternities," he said.
Many fraternities model their risk management policies after the Fraternal Information and Programming Group, FIPG. The group provides guidelines for fraternities in drafting risk management policies, such as those used for organized socials with third party alcohol vendors.
The Interfraternity Council's new policy will pertain to events on the chapter's property. Houses will still be held to the same standards regarding outside socials.
Greek houses are not university property and fall under the jurisdiction of the Columbia Police Department, not the MU Police Department. The Columbia police will have no relation with the third party security firm, Basler said.
"The first idea is that students and alumni handle it internally," she said. "If it's not, then the cases will be handled by the Office of Student Conduct."
The policy will be reassessed continually over the spring and through August, when it is implemented, Basler said.
The Office of Greek Life will have to assess the issue of underage drinking because it is unclear how the security firm will determine people's ages.
"It's a big question that hasn't been answered yet," Glynias said. "My general feeling from being on the task force is it is not the intent of the officer to ask for IDs."
"We're going to have to work through that. What is the observe and report looking for?" Basler said. "Students don't want someone walking around checking IDs — the purpose is not to have huge parties with underage drinkers."
A recent influx of incidents with alcohol and students being admitted to the hospital with high blood alcohol levels has drawn attention. A recent AP story reported that the Columbia Daily Tribune acquired emails from a University Hospital doctor to Chancellor Brady Deaton. The emails expressed a concern about "a number of excessively drunken students coming to the emergency room." But not all intoxicated students come from fraternity or sorority events, and it's difficult to draw a correlation between greek students and the hospital visits.
"I don't think the new policy is going to create an influx of people going to the hospital," Glynias said. "I think the opposite is true because people won't have to opportunity to attend the large parties."
"Ultimately the new policy looks to have a safer environment for our students," Basler said.