North Texas Daily

Dry campus, wet blankets, safer students?

Dry campus, wet blankets, safer students?

February 11
22:49 2013

In 2005, University of Texas freshman Phanta “Jack” Phoummarath died of alcohol poisoning after a party at his fraternity house.

In 2007, University of Mississippi freshman Bradley Jameson fell from a tree outside a fraternity house he was visiting and died after striking his head on a concrete patio. He had been drinking that night.

In 2013, University of North Texas junior Dustin Starks fell from a fraternity house’s stairwell while intoxicated. He remains hospitalized in serious condition.

What do these events have in common? All three are cases of underage drinking gone wrong at fraternity houses on college campuses.

But a difference is found in how the administration of each university chose to respond to these regrettable incidents.

The University of Texas canceled the charter of Phoummarath’s fraternity for six years, and the University of Mississippi placed the offending fraternity in Jameson’s death on probation for a year while requiring its members to perform community service.

Meanwhile, the University of North Texas has chosen to enact a so-called “blanket ban” on alcohol at all greek life events on and off campus, whether or not the participants are of legal age. What’s wrong with this picture?

Rather than singling out the specific organizations that are willfully violating existing rules, or even admitting that these rules were poorly enforced, the administration of this university has chosen to drive a wedge between themselves and the greek establishment.

This ban will not suddenly create an environment of safety and respect for alcohol on this campus that wasn’t there before, nor will it miraculously raise Mr. Starks from his hospital bed.

What it will create is an atmosphere of animosity and bitterness towards authority among both greeks and unaffiliated students alike.

How can any student on this campus respect leaders who don’t trust them to safely drink alcohol at a greek event, even when they reach the legal age to do so?

It’s important to remember that college fraternities and sororities do not have a monopoly on binge drinking, or even drinking in general.

By pushing alcohol underground with this new policy, the university is effectively removing the framework of regulation and oversight that previously motivated greek life members to follow the rules.

The organizations that have strictly followed UNT policy regarding alcohol in the past are being considered no differently in the eyes of the university than the groups that willfully violated them at every turn.

Instead of pursuing sensible regulations, like punishing violators on a case-by-case basis and allowing rule-abiding fraternities and sororities to build a relationship of trust and goodwill with the administration, university policymakers are taking us all back to kindergarten.

Alcohol abuse on college campuses is a serious problem, and should have no place in the traditions of higher education.

The organizations who promote this aspect of greek culture should be held personally responsible for incidents like these, and severe or repeat offenders should be removed from this campus. There is no question.

But regardless of your opinion on fraternities, sororities or alcohol in general, being treated like a child should make you angry, and it should make you question whether this university has your best interests in mind.

Today we’re raising our glasses for Mr. Starks’ speedy recovery, but we’re also proposing a toast to the freedoms of adulthood that have no business being restricted.

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  1. Josh C
    Josh C February 12, 00:16

    I totally agree. It was a ridiculous overreaction.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Justin
    Justin February 12, 00:35

    Welcome to the world of the thousands of students who had their right to use tobacco taken away on January 1st, with little more than a “valid” survey backing up the administration’s new policy. I am a non-traditional student and have experienced what happens when an administration goes overboard on punishing greek life on another campus a decade ago. Unfortunately the UNT administration seems to be striking with an iron fist this year and I am sure they have even more “justice” to deliver.

    Reply to this comment
    • zach
      zach February 12, 08:40

      aw man you can’t breathe your smoke in my face as I am walking to class. I feel sorry for you. Why dont you sit in a car and smoke? that way it will become more concentrated and you get more… erm.. what was it again? If you aren’t getting high whats the point.

      Reply to this comment
  3. Kyle
    Kyle February 12, 00:44

    It honestly concerns me that you assess drinking as a necessary part of greek life. Isn’t the purpose of a fraternity to promote brotherhood, leadership, and social development amongst each other? Why does it need to include alcohol? It doesn’t matter if you’re of age to drink, it doesn’t give you the right in a university setting. Just because you’re over 18 and can smoke, doesn’t mean you’re allowed to in a bar.

    Greek life is represents the university, so it’s not a surprise that the blanket ban is going into effect. Think of it as a football team – one person really screws up, everyone’s running laps.

    Reply to this comment
    • TFM
      TFM February 12, 16:14

      Your last statement really doesn’t fit the situation, but it’s okay because you don’t seem to be apart of the organization in this topic.
      Yes, Greek life is one organization and it’s up to everyone to do their part by setting the standard and following rules. But in reality it’s an organization made up of many DIFFERENT organizations. To say it’s EVERY fraternity and sorority’s fault and undoing for ONE fraternity’s failure of risk management is off key, and cannot be justified. Ban the fraternity, expel them, prohibit them if they are the one at fault. Don’t put everybody in cuffs because ONE fraternity acted wrong. If UNT would of gone about it this way, the other greek life organizations would definitely shape up their act if it was slipping in any account. But UNT’s draconian ban will have the exact opposite effect. Loss of trust and respect.

      It’s funny too, UNT pours all this money into it’s football program and stadium, but then suspends the LAWFUL greek life students, who are the only ones with spirit and who attends, from drinking and taking part in the festivities. Hope the ban clears before next football season…or else the tailgating and seating will be COMPLETELY, not almost, empty. Pat on the back UNT.

      Reply to this comment
      • Evan
        Evan February 12, 20:49

        Don’t act like there is not plenty of alcohol abuse with other Greek organizations/ houses. This could have happened at any of them. May be not all of them take part in excessive drinking and irresponsible behavior, but most of them do. So it isn’t just ONE. Get real…. On the other hand I do agree that the blanket is not really the best of ideas. Punishment should be handed out individually as necessary and maybe some other actions should be put in place to create a safer drinking environment at ALL of the Greek/ other organizations.

        Reply to this comment
  4. Christina Ulsh
    Christina Ulsh February 12, 01:14

    I smell smuggling and speakeasies afoot.

    I wonder if your sentiment would be as bold if if he died. Regardless, it’s an interesting stand you take. Makes it feel like fraternities and sororities are nothing without alcohol.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Jon
    Jon February 12, 01:26

    Quit whining! If some of his “brothers” were more responsible and stopped the abuse before he landed in the hospital, maybe this wouldn’t have happened. The University cannot police everyone all the time, but it can control what happens at University-sponsored events. If you don’t like it, party somewhere else.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Joe Palmer
    Joe Palmer February 12, 01:40

    I agree, overreaction; however, on the flip side, you want to see adults being treated like children? Take a look at the Navy which is now randomly checking sailors’ blood alcohol levels!!!!

    Reply to this comment
  7. Nathan B
    Nathan B February 12, 01:48

    This is typical of this UNT and it’s attempt too surpass the Nanny-stateism of the current US Administration. It further goes to show that the UNT has no clue on how to administer it’s student body. Students will drink, and Students become hurt or even killed is part of the consequences of choosing to binge drink, so instead of punishing the offending student, UNT administration has chosen unilateral Draconian action. They think that this will change anything they are dead wrong Frats will still drink and policing every house party with in 5 miles of campus will prove to be too costly. In short the administration will no directly be the cause of more drunk drivers. GJ guys… really

    Reply to this comment
  8. Jason
    Jason February 12, 10:35

    Remember how well an alcohol ban worked during Prohibition? Oh wait….

    Reply to this comment
  9. Joe
    Joe February 12, 11:18

    The incentive for registering events and being responsible with alcohol is now gone. Greek life isn’t all about alcohol- but it’s a part of events, not just in a college setting.

    And if the administration thinks drinking is just a Greek life problem, they’re wrong. Look at the number of MIP/MIC with non-affiliated Greeks. This punishment is all because of one fraternities actions, whether the administration says so or not.

    This is simply a poor PR move by UNT to give the pressuring media an answer. Rather than approaching the fraternity directly who caused the problem, the fraternities that follow the rules now have a less reason to comply with the university if it doesn’t matter what they do right.

    Reply to this comment
  10. Loren
    Loren February 12, 14:44

    Well written article. What you say is absolutely correct. Although I disagree with the “blanket”, it makes sense. The house where mr. Stark fell was at the end of several stops. In fact, he wasn’t even served alcohol at the house. There are at least 3 other places (places meaning greek homes, not necessarily being the on campus homes, and not including fry) where he stopped before arriving at the house. It is not fair to single the last organization out (of which I’m not a member). Blaming the one organization is like blaming a nursing home for an elderly person’s death. Especially when I’ve personally told dustin to stay off banisters on previous occasions at other locations. Many facts about that night have not, and probably will not, be disclosed. Given what has been disclosed this article is spot on and the blanket will do nothing but promote unsafe drinking.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Proud Greek Member
    Proud Greek Member February 12, 18:49

    I believe this whole thing is a tragedy. It is a tragedy for the countless hours and training the Interfraternity Council and Risk Managers of each organization go through in trying to practice safe atmospheres. Just when we feel Greek Life is taking great steps forward in numbers, events and overall appearence we’ve hit a speed bump. I do feel that the Adminstration was pressured into taking an action as there were some questions to be answered. I do not think it was a bad move, in businesses sometimes when something goes wrong you have to stop production, fix the problem then continue to status quo. The adminstration is not trying to ban alcohol forever, they are simply trying to stop the risk of another incident coming up to float and dealing with the incident at hand.

    Although the story may be that the gentleman had many stops before his final destination that still doesnt help the fact that the organization was not practicing safe Risk Management in seeing who was coming in the door, who was being served and how intoxicated were the people present, etc.

    The main problem I see with this ban is the fact that instead of fraternities handling and being in charge of their own members under their own roofs and guidelines, you now have more people going to bars and drinking and driving. You now have more DUI, PI and uneccesary tickets that could have been avoided if the the people were allowed to drink under their own roof, under their own supervision in a safe environment. I hope that this task force is formed quickly and efficiently and the ban is liften and more education is taught in obviously a more productive manner.

    The Greek Life at the University of North Texas will surpass this speed bump and continue in the upward productive manner that the Interfraternity Council and Chapter Presidents have spoke about and will continue to work together to strive for.


    Reply to this comment
  12. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth February 12, 20:45

    Greeks have always gone underground to drink. Mr. Sparks is just one of the many things that have happened on the UNT campus as far as Greeks drinking. Girls have gone to the ER, Car wrecks, arrests. UNT greek life office is finally stepping up and doing something about it. This needed to be done a long time ago. They are not saying that no Greek can drink, but now the underage ladies and gentlemen don’t have as much access to alcohol. If a group of men from a fraternity wanted to go to a bar and drink they are allowed to.
    Greek Life at UNT needed to be shocked, there is a ton of stuff going on that they will get in trouble for sooner or later. This is not the result of just one thing, its that everything that has been building up. UNT needs to watch out or there will be no greek life. And I am a part of Greek life and can say all of this.

    Reply to this comment
  13. Lauren
    Lauren February 12, 21:05

    I feel like this article was really insensitive to the young man who is in critical condition. You really believe you should just get a slap on the wrist and pick up trash when something this serious has happends? I fully support UNTs decision. Alcohol should not be a huge part of Greek life or pastimes. The fraternity’s and sororities continuous flaunting of binge drinking has finally caught up with them and a kids life is now at stake for it. Go to the bars and stop letting these underage kids drink if you don’t want to be held responsible and feel the consequences.

    Reply to this comment
  14. MOM but oh I clearly remember the fraternity partys......
    MOM but oh I clearly remember the fraternity partys...... February 12, 23:39

    First, our hearts and prayers go out to the family and that is what is most important! Ok, I have to comment…..Being treated like a child should make you angry???? (as posted above) Well when Mommy or Daddy pay the rent, take out the loan, cover you…guess what you’re not an adult and the law is clear sooooooooooooo brotherhood STOP supplying ID’s or alcohol to MINORS and if you’re an ADULT go to a bar if that’s what you want to do, drink responsibly, and tax a taxi home or have a set sober driver. Too many lives are lost to the ignorance of the youth who do not know all as they think nor do the adults know all but we’ve been around a bit longer, seen tragic needless loss of life, and you should attempt to listen to us. If anyone is this angry over being dry you seriously may have a problem bigger than this article.

    Reply to this comment

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