Marijuana Fraternity House
This question was submitted by one of our readers. If you have a question you want me to answer go here to submit it: Fraternity Advice.
My fraternity has many people who smoke weed. The problem is that it can be detrimental to academics and distract others from work. While smoking is illegal, no one is going to evict a brother for smoking. We have a policy that after 11 PM, people can smoke in their rooms if they towel the door, etc. While you cannot smoke inside the house during the day, you can smoke outside still. There has been problems with the smell in the past and general public relations regarding smoking. We are also working on changing the culture of the fraternity to involve more academics and potentially less smoking. One can always party, even after doing school work.
What is there that can be done as far as making rules to regulate smoking and maintaining a good balance of rights?
I’m not the politically correct guy that’s going to quote rules to you when I know that’s not reality. I think it’s unconstitutional for the drinking age to be 21. I think hazing is worse because we criminalize wearing the same outfit and doing some grunt work alongside beating someone with broomsticks till they pass out, rather than keeping the constructive training techniques in the open where they can be monitored. And, as trashy as I think marijuana is, I really wouldn’t care one way or the other if it were legalized for recreational use. BUT, all those things are illegal and the consequences of getting caught are catastrophic.
Let me just show you what that looks like:
I’m not going to, but I could talk some details about those first couple cases because they involve my national fraternity. I could explain how those chapters were caught up in a witch hunts. How it was really a few individuals doing stupid stuff and far overblown, but they made two big mistakes. They tolerated their brothers doing that; and, they gave authorities an in to take them down.
I’ll be the first to argue that fraternities should not be held responsible for the individual acts of a member unless they are on our property, at our event, or acting in their authorized capacity as an officer or member of our organization. They should face criminal and disciplinary action on their own and not drag our organization down with them. Schools, in an inability to control individual students, way too often pass the buck to us like we can do something more than they can. That’s cowardly on their part and hurts us in the process.
That said, when it’s on your property you’re liable for it. If they’re paying rent with money they earn from selling dope on the side then the state can seize your house – and you’re still stuck with the mortgage. If they’re just smoking on the grounds or at your event, then you deserve to lose your charter. If you know about it and you don’t stop them, then it’s your fault. That’s called bystander intervention, or lack of it in this case.
There are a lot of resources out there on bystander intervention. You can work with your nationals and Greek life office to develop programming on that issue without telling them why. There are some great speakers out there that it sounds like your Greek system could benefit from too. One way or another, you need to install that culture in your chapter and quick or it’s a matter of time before you’re done.
You got to be kidding me with towel under the door and smoking outside (where presumably it’s possible someone could see/report them). You actually have a rule for when people are allowed to smoke versus not. That’s worse than being ignorant.
I would hope you do a better job of taking guys that don’t contribute to this culture, but at the end of the day what people do on their own time in the privacy of their own home is not necessarily your business until they make you look bad. But, in your house? Absolutely positively not! You have to stop that decisively and immediately.
I dealt with this as an undergrad and a few times at different chapters as an advisor. It honestly is one of the hardest cultures to break, but you have to do it. The consequences are just too high. I think you could just about kill someone on video and the consequences to the long-term survival of the chapter would not be as severe, though please don’t test that theory.
As an advisor, honestly, my solution would be membership review. At minimum, I’d kick out the worst offenders to make a point. If need be, I’d clean house as I have to and start over. I’d rather have no members and a charter than keep people that are going to continue a culture that seriously endangers it.
You need to do some soul searching about how invasive this culture is. It sounds deeply seated. If you got exec to stand up to the chapter and say no more (in the house, at events, with letters on, or in any situation where someone would associate you with the fraternity) would the chapter comply or not? If not then you need help from your advisors &/or nationals to cut deeper. I know it sounds painful, and it is, but it’s a little pain now or catastrophic charter loss and maybe never coming back if you keep trying to dodge the bullet. You have to show some personal courage in standing up to your friends and doing something unpopular. That’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do in life. Standing up to that challenge says something about you. Letting it go by says something too, and that’s not who you want to be in life.
Good luck. Keep us updated on how it goes.
– This answer was written by Dennis Nall, an alumni brother from Alpha Tau Omega and contributor for the thefraternityadvisor.com. If you are interested in writing for thefraternityadvisor.com – let us know (CLICK HERE)!