Greek alcohol summit tries to dispel ‘Animal House’ image

Negative stereotypes of the Greek system cause many students to imagine the leaders of fraternities and sororities on campus spending their Friday nights guzzling beer at raunchy parties. This past weekend, however, nothing could have been further from the truth.

About 60 Greeks representing the College’s 23 recognized fraternities and sororities attended an overnight Alcohol Summit, which was a totally substance-free event addressing the issue of high-risk drinking.

“The Alcohol Summit was a groundbreaking event,” Dave Dziengowski, president of the Inter-Greek Council, said.

The College was selected as one of four schools nationwide to attend the interactive program sponsored by the North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC). This was not meant to punish Greeks for drinking problems but rather to recognize them as a progressive community seeking to raise its standards, Tim Wilkinson, director of fraternity and sorority programs, said.

“This national recognition is a big honor,” Wilkinson said. He said that over the course of his four years as director, he’s noticed an increase in the quality of Greek programs and the desire to reduce the negative impact of alcohol.

“Too many people think of ‘Animal House,'” he said, referring to the 1978 comedy on the debauchery at a fraternity house. “We’re always working to get rid of that stereotype and reduce the negative impact of alcohol.”

The Alcohol Summit was an opportunity for Greek leaders, most of whom were the presidents or social chairs of their chapter, to engage in an open discussion on alcohol abuse. The outcome of the two-day program at the Trenton Marriot was four action plans.

“The honesty that our organizations showed and the actions plans that they came up with made me very proud and pleased,” Wilkinson said.

First, the Greeks resolved to eliminate alcohol from the Rush Season, the time when students join sororities and fraternities.

Another goal is to create a Greek Task Force titled the “United Greek Coalition” to assess alcohol use in each chapter and promote alcohol education for the wider campus population.

The third is to make Greek Week a “dry week” of fun events that mixes members from all chapters on campus into teams to promote unity.

Finally, the brothers and sisters resolved to start a Greek Alcohol Lecture Series run by Greeks for all students at the College.

In the process of developing these action plans, there were workshops that fostered discussion of values and taught leadership skills and different forms of confrontation.

“I liked the way they taught us the leadership skills that will enable us to work together to promote positive change in the Greek community,” Tim Moore, sophomore engineering major from Psi Kappa Psi, said.

Dziengowski, who is also a brother of Psi Kappa Psi, underscored the importance of such change.

“It is important to confront the issue of alcohol use in our chapters because alcohol problems in any one chapter reflect on the greater (College) Greek community,” he said.

Isolated incidents of high-risk drinking give sororities and fraternities a wild image that downplays their achievements, Dziengowski said. He referred to the fact that the average GPA of Greeks at the College is higher than that of the campus overall and that Greeks are committed to community service.

However, because the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism’s Task Force on College Drinking found alcohol responsible for 1,400 deaths, 500,000 injuries and 70,000 cases of assault or date rape across the country the NIA created the Alcohol Summit as a research-based campus alcohol program that would help Greek systems with the most potential to reduce these statistics.

To further guide the College’s Greeks toward realizing their action plans, the lead summit facilitator will pay a follow-up visit within the next three months. The vice president of fraternity advancement for NIC will also work from the NIC headquarters in Indianapolis, Ind. with Greeks.

Wilkinson said the Alcohol Summit was the beginning of a cultural shift away from alcohol and toward enhancing the academic experience. “Our Greek letter organizations are going to be the leaders in making that change,” he said.