North Texas Daily

University lifts Greek Life alcohol ban

University lifts Greek Life alcohol ban

University lifts Greek Life alcohol ban
August 29
07:58 2013

Joshua Knopp / Senior Staff Writer

UNT administrators ended a seven-month ban on alcohol at Greek Life events on Aug. 19 after a task force of greek leaders hammered out a proposal on how to avoid further alcohol violations.

The ban was administered after Sigma Nu member Dustin Starks, previously an accounting junior, fell over a railing and was hospitalized at 4:30 a.m. at a party at the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity house on Jan. 26.

Starks said he has since been released from the hospital, is participating in therapy and will have no lasting damage from the fall. He is not enrolled at the university this semester and plans to attend the University of Mississippi in January. His parents suggested he not return to UNT.

“I’m fine,” Starks said. “I just still haven’t remembered what happened yet, but I know it wasn’t alcohol that caused me to fall. I’ve been drinking since I was 17 and never even stumbled around with my friends.”

Sigma Nu president Andrew Niemeyer declined to comment on Starks’ condition and his current enrollment at UNT.

Senior vice president of student affairs and enrollment management Elizabeth With asked a task force of 13 greek students to put together recommendations to improve the fraternity and sorority’s relationships with alcohol.

“I lifted the ban based on what they said they were willing to do,” she said.

The task force came to a five-point plan: improving the mandatory alcohol education; increase accountability for violations; develop a public relations plan with University Relations, Communications and Marketing; put together a team of students to help prevent further incidents; and put together a good Samaritan program so students can report dangerous situations without fear of being reprimanded themselves.

“It is imperative that someone call for medical assistance when a student has had too much to drink,” the task force’s final proposal reads. “These emergencies are potentially life threatening, and UNT seeks to reduce barriers to seeking assistance.”

Dean of students Maureen McGuinness said the Dean of Students office and URCM are working on implementing the first three recommendations, and two graduate assistant positions have been reassigned to fulfill the fourth. McGuinness said her office is currently finalizing the details of a good Samaritan program, which will be implemented on a trial basis next semester.

“We want people to make sure that they get their fellow students help if they are in crisis because of alcohol or drug consumption without fear that because they reported it they themselves would get in trouble,” McGuinness said. “And the parameters of that need to be defined.”

The Greek Life task force included multiple fraternity and sorority members, Interfraternity Council president Colby Garza and Student Government Association vice president Anthony Brown.

Starks said the ban being lifted will not change the presence of alcohol at Greek Life events.

“The ban being lifted really won’t affect anything,” Starks said. “I haven’t been to Denton, but I know that [the] drinking rule has been broken plenty of times. UNT’s cops suck.”

International studies senior and Theta Chi member Christopher Matos got on UNT’s radar just after the ban was announced Feb. 7, when he emailed McGuinness and others saying he was frustrated by the ban.

“I was extremely disappointed in what I thought to be a short-sighted, knee-jerk reaction to a problem that is not unique to Greek organizations, nor just the University of North Texas,” Matos said. “I felt the University could have found a more proactive approach to the situation, particularly since blanket bans do not work nearly as effectively as alternative methods.”

Matos wound up chairing a committee that recommended studies on alcohol education programs and creating more accountability mechanisms, both of which were large parts of the final proposal.

“The primary problem I wanted to address is a severe lack of risk management training for all organizations at UNT. There is also a lack of a system for promoting responsible drinking behavior,” he said. “Although I am graduating and cannot directly work on future issues, I do still actively promote to my peers and my brothers what I think the goal of the task force was: to encourage the responsible consumption of alcohol.”

Applied arts and sciences senior, Phi Kappa Tau president and task force member William Willis said he was happy with task force’s success but said it was solving a problem that wasn’t widespread.

“I feel like people expected to see a drastic change because alcohol supposedly was having a drastic effect on us, but that wasn’t the case,” he said. “A loud minority was heard over all of the positive aspects of Greek Life. The squeaky wheel got its grease, and now we can move on.”

Managing editor Tyler Owens contributed to this report.

Photo by Aidan Barrett / Senior Staff Photographer

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