Daily Collegian Story - Shrinking fraternity institutes alcohol-free program

By Bridget Smith - Collegian Staff Writer as Printed in the Daily Collegian on September 26, 2002

Shrinking fraternity institutes alcohol-free program

Theta Chi fraternity's alcohol-free policy is being implemented at Penn State after years of planning.

The Penn State chapter of Theta Chi fraternity, 523 S. Allen St., attempted to implement the new policy last fall but was unsuccessful. Consequently, the fraternity's international headquarters stepped in during the summer and took control of the Penn State chapter.

Click to see larger versionThe national fraternity decided at a 1998 conference to become an alcohol-free organization by 2003.

The resolution makes it a violation of fraternity policy for a chapter to have alcohol on chapter property. Members who are 21 years old are still able to consume alcohol off the premises, and the fraternity can still host events at other venues.

The Penn State chapter has remained on active status in the Interfraternity Council (IFC) while under headquarters' control, despite dwindling membership in recent years and losing its six active members this summer.

"It is important to point out that the members chose to leave the fraternity; it was on good terms," said Sean Bailey, expansion coordinator for Theta Chi. "There was no membership review or removal."

Bailey said the inability to go alcohol-free was largely due to a lack of resources and the culture of the fraternity.

"It is harder to change the culture of large universities, big drinking environments and large greek systems," he said.

The resolution was voted on by the undergraduates in attendance at the conference and passed by an overwhelming majority, said Joe Wachs, director of chapter services for Theta Chi.

Wachs said the policy was passed because members felt the fraternity was no longer attracting the kind of members it wanted, not because of risk-management issues.

"Alcohol has its place, but it is not the crutch members will be recruited on," he said.

Max Pipman, IFC president, said the council fully supports any chapters involved with alcohol-free housing.

"We feel that alcohol-free chapters can thrive here at Penn State, and we are more than willing to support them in any way," he said.

Pipman also noted that the IFC treats alcohol-free fraternities the same as it would any other chapter.

Theta Chi is now starting over from scratch.

Since it is still an active chapter, Bailey said, it will fulfill all of its IFC obligations, including dues and participation in philanthropies and other activities sponsored by the IFC.

"We have taken advantage of what the IFC has to offer; we've participated in the greek mixers and will be extending bids," he said.

Bids will be extended to 10 to 15 members on Monday, but recruitment will continue throughout the semester.

The chapter's goal is to have 25 members by the end of the semester.

"We think this is an aggressive goal, but it can be achieved," Bailey said.

Typically, recruitment numbers increase with alcohol-free housing, he said, because fraternities are able to market better organizations and emphasize academic support and leadership development, rather than the social aspect of greek life.

Other alcohol-free fraternities are Alpha Sigma Phi, 328 E. Fairmount Ave., Phi Delta Theta, 240 N. Burrowes Road, Sigma Nu, 340 N. Burrowes St., Delta Sigma, 508 Locust Lane, and Phi Gamma Delta, 319 N. Burrowes St.

"[A dry house] is one members will take pride in," Bailey said.

Wachs said Theta Chi takes pride in its Penn State chapter, the 24th oldest chapter in the fraternity and was eager to try and help it make a smooth transition to alcohol free.

"We have a lot of history at Penn State, and our board would not let the chapter fail," Wachs said.

CORRECTION: The Digital Collegian incorrectly stated the alcohol policy of Delta Sigma, 508 Locust Lane. The fraternity's national organization is dry, but the local chapter, which disaffiliated from the national group, is not.