This past weekend fraternity parties began at 9:00 p.m. instead of the typical 11:00 p.m. The change comes as part of an initiative by the College, fraternities, and other organizations to reduce dangerous incidents related to student drinking.
“One of the things that we all worry about — and it’s not unique to Franklin & Marshall, it’s at virtually every college and university campus in the country — we worry about high-risk consumption of alcohol,” said Steven P. O’Day, senior associate dean of the College. “In other words, pre-gaming.”
“We had a lot of [unfortunate] incidents last year and we traced most of them back to pre-gaming,” added Joseph Strawitz ’13, president of the Interfraternity Council (IFC). “So what we’re hoping to accomplish in moving this time is to reduce some of the pre-gaming that happens.”
According to O’Day, pre-gaming, a practice in which students drink before going out to a party or other social event, has long been an issue at F&M and other colleges. First-years are especially at risk because many of them have little experience drinking and do not know their personal limits with alcohol.
The idea to change the start time of fraternity parties was floated at a .08 Executive Board meeting last Spring. Members suggested it to O’Day as something that could be enacted during the fall semester. This measure is not formal College policy, but instead is a cooperative effort designed to reduce pre-gaming that comes as the result of an ongoing dialogue between the College, the fraternities, .08, and the Department of Public Safety (DPS) as part of their work to curb high-risk consumption of alcohol on campus.
While both Strawitz and O’Day realize pre-gaming will never be completely stopped, they are hopeful the change will reduce the number of students who pre-game by cutting the amount of time they have to do so. If the change proves successful, they are willing to continue the practice. They also hope students will find alternative outlets to drinking, such as going to club or sporting events.
“I see this as an opportunity to set the tone within the student community that there are things to do, particularly during those early evening hours,” O’Day said. “I’d like for all of our students to recognize we have these events out there too.”
According to O’Day, the fraternities have been very supportive of actions aimed at encouraging students to engage in less dangerous drinking, especially pre-gaming; one fraternity even suggested printing a message on its invitations stating that students who pre-game will not be admitted. Although, according to Strawitz, it is likely that all fraternities will comply with the new initiative, they are not required to do so by the College, and can ultimately open whenever they like. While the College would frown upon such an action, there are no real disciplinary measures that can be taken against a rogue fraternity.
Both the Administration and the fraternities recognized the decision to shift the start time of parties carries with it many unforeseen results. For example, if parties begin at 9:00 p.m., students may decide to pre-game earlier or they may drink after the party in what O’Day referred to as “post-gaming.” There is also the concern that since parties will begin earlier but end at their usual time, this will give students more of an opportunity to drink at the party instead of pre-gaming in their rooms.
“There are all kinds of potential unintended consequences to something like this,” O’Day said. “But what I think by far is the least attractive option for us, is to not do anything—to not try anything.”
There are many factors at play that will determine the success of this new measure to fight pre-gaming including how students and fraternities react to the change and whether or not students will find additional activities to participate in. In addition, even if pre-gaming continues on campus, Strawitz believes this does not mean the initiative will be a failure.
“In my opinion, if pushing parties back to 9:00 p.m. translates to one less person having too much before a party, one less person going to a hospital, one less person having their stomach pumped, and one less person having a near-death experience, then we did our job,” Strawitz said.
Questions? Email Steven at firstname.lastname@example.org.