alcohol free fraternity house

A lot of fraternity houses are going alcohol free.  There are a few compelling reasons why this decision has been made.  This is a controversial subject to many fraternity brothers, because there are some negative results form this policy.  Below are my thoughts on both sides.

A huge positive for having an alcohol free fraternity house is they are going to be cleaner.  This is very appealing to brothers who actually live in the house.  These brothers will not have to start most mornings by cleaning up beer cans from the night before, and the lingering smell of stale beer will not permeate the house.  This is also more appealing to the parents of brothers, who are often footing the bill.

Another positive is it will remove alcohol as the center of the fraternity.  Fraternity membership is declining, in large part because of our past that focused on drinking in excess.  By taking that out of the house, you will make the brotherhood the focus of the fraternity, instead of drinking.  Alcoholics can be helped and this will make your chapter stronger.

Probably the most significant reason, even though most brothers don’t realize it, is the impact on the fraternity’s risk management program.  Alcohol free housing will help mitigate underage drinking in the fraternity.  Insurance companies realize this, and will offer lower policies to houses that go dry.

On the flip side, there are some negatives to having an alcohol free fraternity house.  The most obvious is the contradiction in what fraternities are all about.  Aren’t we about developing leaders who are responsible for their actions?  By dictating what brothers can and can’t do, we are taking away valuable opportunities for them to choose to do the right thing.

Another negative is it will hurt a fraternity socially.  Right or wrong, alcohol is a part of college life.  If used responsibly, there is nothing wrong with it.  Brothers will end up going to places other than the fraternity house for social interaction because of this policy.  Is this the type of behavior we want to we want to drive in our fraternities?

The last negative is could will hurt dry houses in recruitment.  Some fraternities will lose out on young guys who don’t realize the benefits of having an alcohol free house.  Again, right or wrong, this will be seen as a negative by an outsider and could hold the fraternity back during recruitment.

So which side do I think is better?  I don’t think there is a real concrete answer.  Alcohol free fraternity houses will work for some fraternities, but won’t work for others.  I see nothing wrong with either, but if I had to choose I would prefer not to have a dry house.

If you have an opinion on the topic, leave a comment below.

5 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of an Alcohol Free Fraternity House

  1. I have a little bit different view, or possibly just a different perspective.

    I run a housing corp, which means the last thing I want is the house screwed up by a bunch of drunks throwing big parties in it. But…

    A party at a fraternity house has stronger risk mgmt than any other location they’d do a fraternity event. If it’s at a bar, you have the expense of getting there and back safely. Depending on your campus, they often means buses. Then you have a bar employee working the door, not one of your guys, and maybe you have a blocked off area with wristbands to get by another bar employee. And what you get on the end is a semi-open party with a cash bar, more drunk driving, and less people taking responsibility for the situation. Though more expensive, it’s fine to do events that way, but I would rather have a mix of options.

    What’s more important though is the non-fraternity events. Where you would normally just congregate at the house, that’s now parties at apartments and off in single family neighborhoods. There’s no risk mgmt at those events. Not everyone is trained in it & no one is responsible for it. There’s kegs & everything else we could never have at a fraternity house. There’s no fraternity insurance coverage cause it’s not an official event or run by policy, no property insurance from the owner to cover the way it’s being used, and no provision for safe transportation to/from. It’s going to create exponentially more complaints. Literally it is a matter of time before someone is very seriously hurt. Regardless if it’s a national fraternity, local chapter, university, or city pushing an alcohol free policy, what it’s really all about is allowing a much more dangerous situation in order to duck responsibility.

    As far as occupancy, that cuts both ways. Yes, the cleanliness is much better, but you’re also telling residents they can’t have alcohol in their own home. Why would they choose to live there instead of an apartment where they can do what they want. If they wanted to live in a dorm with the University treating them like children, they can do that without a fraternity. If you aren’t careful, you’ll find you aren’t offering them anything with that facility but just one more dorm.

    And that plays into brotherhood too. If a member doesn’t live in the house, doesn’t eat there, and you don’t have your meetings there, and he can’t drink there, then why would he ever go there? Whatever principles or causes we may have, the basis of brotherhood is ultimately time spent together. If there’s not only no incentive to spend time together in that space, but disincentive to do so, then that very significantly harms the brotherhood. Having meals & meetings at the house sounds good, but a lot of facilities don’t provide that option.

    I don’t want membership to be all about alcohol, but I don’t want a ban on it to be a roadblock to everything we’re trying to achieve either, and certainly not at the true practical costs in safety.

  2. I am an 40 year alum and I saw what went on during my pledgeship and active status.

    In the late 50’s and 60″s alcohol played a part , but not a predominate part of fraternity life at our college. However, recently my chapter has been in and out of(mostly in) trouble which has been , for the most part, caused by excessive alcohol comsumption.

    I drank responsibly and did most of my Brothers, but until the pledges/Actives learn how to control their drinking I am in favor of banning consumption at chapter functions in the houses, and strict monitoring of anyone coming to hte house after consumption.

    • Very good points. Question though – is the problem really the drinking? Is it possible the guys are making poor choices regardless of their alcohol consumption?

  3. Pat,

    I am surprised with your final verdict. I do however see both sides. I sometimes see it pointless to have a dry house because members are just going to find somewhere else to drink anyway (I feel like this is something I would tell my parents in high school).

    However, I prefer living in a house without alcohol. It is often cleaner, smells better; and I would say that if you have a house with large parties that could distract the brother who stays in on a Saturday night to study for that exam Monday.


    • Steve – I absolutely see your point. A fraternity house can get pretty nasty. Like I said, I could go either way on this issue. If it works for you, and that is what your chapter wants, then I think it is a good thing.


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