Party On?: Chapman fraternities underestimate the effect of NIC’s alcohol ban

Official fraternity sponsored events, such as Pi Kappa Alpha’s Heaven and Hell event, serve alcohol through a third party vendor, which complies with the NIC’s new rules. Photo by Evan Hammerman.

In August, the North American Fraternity Council (NIC) adopted a policy that decreed “Each NIC member fraternity will adopt and implement a policy by September 1, 2019, that prohibits the presence of alcohol products above 15 percent ABV in any chapter facility or at any chapter event, except when served by a licensed third-party vendor.”

Chapman fraternities believe they will not be affected by the hard alcohol ban because they lack Greek housing and the parties held at fraternity members’ residences are not officially endorsed by the fraternity. This interpretation may not hold up under the law, according to at least one legal expert.

“Speaking to the rules that the NIC passed, it really doesn’t apply to Chapman because the ban was placed on fraternities with housing,” said Trystan Davis, Interfraternity Council President.

Though students consider homes that fraternity members rent together and host parties at to be frat houses, they are not official in the eyes of NIC, according to Davis.

“It’s affiliated student talk wise, but on paper, it’s not,” Davis said. “It’s kind of hard to pin a house that’s being rented by students as a Greek house.”

Doug Fierberg, an attorney that specializes in school law, hazing, sexual assault, and related topics, says that there are a number of legal theories under state law that enable victims to hold fraternities (national and chapters) and their members responsible.

Fierberg warned that Davis should proceed at his own risk.

“If they throw an event and someone gets hurt or killed I’ll be the first one to hold them responsible,” he said.

Chapters are self-managed by their members. Supervision is put in the hands of  “18, 19, 20-year-olds who are often grossly intoxicated, poorly trained and completely unaware of the risks,” said Fierberg.

“They [fraternities] are not to be entrusted with that kind of supervisor responsibility because for decades its been proven they aren’t capable of doing things safely,” said Fierberg.

Fierberg has resolved dozens of cases nationally regarding hazing, wrongful death, and negligence by fraternities.

“We have argued that that management system itself, which is basically controlled by the national [fraternity], is dangerous,” said Fierberg.

Fierberg also argues that the members can be considered legal agents of the national fraternity. This can hold the national fraternity responsible for the misconduct of its agents.

Four alcohol-related fraternity deaths in 2017 prompted the North American Interfraternity Conference to order a ban on frats serving hard alcohol – unless the bartender is a licensed third-party vendor.

Even with a third-party vendor, fraternities can be held legally responsible depending on circumstance, according to Fierberg.

A wrongful-death lawsuit was filed against the Sigma Alpha Epsilon National Chapter in 2012 after an Arizona State University pledge, Jack Culolias drowned. Culolias was kicked out of a Tempe bar at a fraternity event for being too drunk. At least two fraternity members knew he was kicked out, which Culolias’ mother Grace Culolias claimed as gross negligence. His body was discovered weeks later in the Tempe Town Lake with the blood-alcohol content of 0.28 percent.

“Nearly all hazing and over-consumption deaths in the past two years have involved students consuming high-percentage alcohol beverages,” read a statement on the NIC’s website.

Some Chapman fraternity members claim they realize liability if someone drinks themselves into critical health and gets injured.

With the existence of the fraternity at stake, should there be an accident, senior finance major Wesley Hertel stated Delta Sigma Phi has decided not to serve hard liquor at their parties. He acknowledged that completely blocking out hard alcohol from events is beyond their control.

“People that go to events can bring it themselves if they really want it and they are responsible for their own actions,” said Hertel.

Fierberg emphasized that fraternity members are responsible to tell people to stop drinking or ensure the safety of guests, pledges and members of the chapter.

“Good luck is what I’ll say to the fraternity,” Fierberg said. “They’re all incredibly inexperienced and poorly trained to deal with these situations.”

Chapman students have conflicting views about their financial futures

Senior psychology major, Samantha Ransom, doubts she will do better than her parents financially. From left: Sandy, Richard, Samantha, and Becca Ransom. Photo courtesy Samantha Ransom.

Chapman students are just as divided as the 15 to 26-year-olds surveyed by Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and MTV on their hopes for the future.

Respondents to the poll were almost equally split between those who thought they will eventually be better off than their parents financially and those who doubted they would be able to attain their parents’ standard of living or would wind up in similar financial situations as their parents. Chapman students are similarly split in terms of their future expectations for prosperity.

This optimism discrepancy has many factors: the degree of affluence experienced growing up, their chosen major and career path, and whether they are likely to graduate with buckets of debt.

Senior psychology major Samantha Ransom’s undergraduate degree is fully funded by her grandmother. Yet, she doubts the income she will make as a forensic psychologist will be enough to sustain a family.

Ransom is aware her chosen profession may come with financial challenges, but she has another source of income in mind to help her afford the lifestyle she wants.

“My plan is to hopefully marry someone who has more money than I do because I will not be able to substantially sustain a family with the income I am making,” Ransom said.

Students in the humanities understandably appear less certain that they will exceed their parents’ standard of living. Students going into more lucrative industries have more confidence that their financial futures will be sunny.

Alex Krantz, a sophomore business and English major, said he is “super optimistic” about his financial future. He plans to become a lawyer, like his father. He has his undergraduate tuition paid for by his parents and expressed that his optimism is derived from his parents’ financial support as well as the example set for him to pursue a well-paid career by his father.

“If your parents make a decent amount of money then you have the platform to make more money,” Krantz said.

Students who have financial help in their undergraduate education enjoy a stunning advantage in getting a financial toehold in adulthood. Free from monthly debt service payments, they can instead focus on saving, pursuing home ownership and taking their next career steps.

With the average student debt racking up at $29,669 for the class of 2016, according to financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz’s data, going to college can be a blessing and a curse.

Noah Orvis, a sophomore environmental science major, is putting herself through college with money she has saved since she was fifteen. Her mom is a veterinarian technician and her dad is not in her life. Even with a generous amount of financial aid, Orvis will graduate burdened with $40,000 in student loans.

“Hopefully I am able to get a job that can help me slowly pay off [my] debt,” said Orvis. “I don’t want to try and base my education on that [being financially better off than her parents] because it would stress me out too much.”

Orvis is uncertain that she will be better off than her parents and finds it interesting that this generation already has that thought in mind.

Though her situation will leave her in a financial bind, Orvis believes the poll has some truth for students at Chapman whose parents have money.

“Someone in a lower income family might know they are definitely going to do better than their parents because they can go to college,” she said. “But if your parents are both doctors, to say that you’d do better than them, might be hard to gage.”