Bid week prompts ResEd concerns

Residential Education (ResEd) officials met with leaders in the Greek community last week to discuss the dozens of alcohol-related incidents that occurred during the new member education period, along with steps fraternities and sororities may take to alter the culture of bid week in the future.

“I’m not naive to think that every person in the room was holding hands and singing ‘Kumbaya,’ but I feel like most people there were honest, and most people were serious about wanting to address these things,” Dean of ResEd Deborah Golder said of the meeting.

 

Alcohol incidents during bid week

On May 17, Associate Dean of ResEd Nate Boswell sent a letter to all Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC) and Inter-Sorority Council (ISC) members expressing concern about a spike in incidents involving the consumption and distribution of alcohol during the recruitment period, citing “a fundamental disconnect between Stanford’s stated expectations of responsibility around alcohol and the manner in which your chapters are regulating your use.”

The letter also directed the Greek organizations on campus that they must take steps to show that they are about “far more than drinking” or risk losing University recognition.

“If our current trajectory continues, it would not be out of the realm of possibility for the Stanford administration and Board of Trustees to consider serious changes to the Greek community on this campus as we know it,” IFC President Ben Laufer ’12 wrote in an email to The Daily. “Sororities were eliminated altogether once before, and it is not inconceivable that Stanford will once again reconsider the status of Greeks here at Stanford.”

Boswell’s letter listed five areas of concern: reports that recruits returned to freshman residences so drunk they were vomiting and passing out, reports of medical transports because of alcohol poisoning, reports that Greek organizations were regularly serving alcohol to minors, hazing allegations and reports from charter bus companies that Greek formals were poorly managed.

Reports came from Resident Fellows (RFs), Resident Assistants (RAs), friends of new Greek members and members of the Greek organizations themselves, Golder said.

“While we want very much to work in collaboration around these issues, the trends discussed will not be tolerated moving forward,” Boswell wrote in an email to The Daily.

“I have no interest, and frankly I don’t think Stanford has an interest, in having a bunch of drinking clubs,” Golder said.

The reports concerned both housed and un-housed IFC and ISC organizations, but Golder noted that the time period in question was separate from the multicultural organization recruitment period.

“While the May 17th letter may be construed by some as harsh, given the seriousness of the situation, I personally felt it was appropriate,” Laufer wrote.

 

ResEd and Greek community response

At the meeting, Golder stressed to Greek leaders that their organizations tend to get lumped together in the public eye, regardless of which organization is associated with particular incidents.

“Even if only half of the alleged incidents occur, people don’t say it was this organization or that,” Golder said. “The University just goes, ‘Oh, it’s fraternities and sororities.’”

Golder noted that some reports from the period in question have been confirmed while others have been found not to have occurred.

“A lot of what we’re trying to determine is, ‘Did something occur that was egregious?’” Golder said. “If it did, what’s the appropriate follow-up that should occur?”

Some fraternities and sororities have internal judicial processes that they use to determine accountability for incidents, a process some of the organizations had already started before meeting with ResEd, Golder said. She added that other situations are referred to the Organizational Conduct Board (OCB). Incidents that are referred to the OCB – an organization analogous to the Judicial Affairs board, but for student groups – are University-level policy violations.

In general, incidents involving public disruption, as well as incidents that result in police reports, end up on the desks of the University President, the Provost and the Vice Provost for Student Affairs, Golder said.

“I think that most of the people at the table were being really honest, and I think that the reality is the folks who are in the leadership roles in these fraternities and sororities care about their organizations, they care about the members of their organizations and they actually understand and don’t disagree — for the most part — with where the University is coming from,” Golder said. “They’re in the tough position of trying to get their membership to understand it as well.”

Laufer agreed that open communication between the Greek community and ResEd is important, but added that sometimes ResEd’s manner of approaching a situation leads the Greek community to shut down toward the administration.

“The best way the IFC collective can react to ResEd’s concerns is to remain open and willing to self-reflect on the actions we have made that have resulted in their concerns,” Laufer wrote. “Defensiveness is not constructive. However, I do think that ResEd should keep in mind that playing the blame game will lead to said defensiveness.”

This spring’s spike in alcohol-related incidents comes in light of progress on the part of the Greek community since it came under ResEd’s purview several years ago.

“They’ve been doing really well all year, frankly, in terms of concerns around party management and other things,” Golder said of the Greek community. “Organizations overall have been doing really well.”

Despite her generally positive assessment of the year for the Greek community, Golder said that there are major areas for concern in the drinking culture, particularly because fraternities and sororities are accorded special status by the University among student groups. She said that she holds housed fraternities and sororities to particularly high standards because they “get a multi-million dollar house” due to their affiliation as a Greek organization.

“You’ve got to be better than everybody else, not worse, because it’s a really special thing,” Golder said. “If you can’t do better, if you’re teaching on purpose, passively or actively, that all you are is about drinking, then that’s not a theme I’m going to support from ResEd.”

“We’re not going to have the ‘get drunk’ house as a theme,” she added.

About Alice Phillips

Alice Phillips is Managing Editor of News at The Stanford Daily. Previously, she worked as The Daily's Deputy Editor, Chief Copy Editor, News Desk Editor, and News Staff Writer. She is a senior from Los Angeles, CA.
  • Guest

    I don’t know for sure but I suspect it is only because Stanford fears the alumni reaction and a decrease in donations that they tolerate housed Greek organizations.  Why should these certain student groups (which masquerade as “charity” organizations because they stop drinking for one Saturday a quarter to pick up litter on the side of the highway) receive housing while other valuable communities and groups don’t even get a chance to show the positive impact they could have if given housing?  Or just give the prime row real estate back to the draw.  Instead Greeks get it and use it to increase the cultures of high-risk drinking and the type of sexist culture that leads to sexual assault.  At the very least, Greek organizations should have to constantly demonstrate why they deserve housing, and not assume they have it until they mess up big enough to warrant probation.

  • Swatcash1012

    Wow… you sound like a blast to hang out with.

  • Greek

    Guest, I’m not sure what your experience with the Greek system has been.  Obviously not a positive one, and I’m sorry.  But I recently had to leave a Greek progressive to come back to my dorm to take care of a girl who had been at a NON-Greek party (I think at French House?), where she had been given ten shots of alcohol and now was vomiting all over our lobby after her friends abandoned her.  I really don’t think the Greek system is the source of all binge-drinking on campus, and I think it’s really unfair to put the blame there.  They host parties, sure, but I think Band is arguably much wilder. Sexism exists in the Greek system, yes, because the organizations are inherently single-sex, but I also think there are other negative instances on campus, like the way hot girls get free food at Treehouse when everyone else has to pay, and within Western culture as a whole.  Sexual assault is a very real issue, one that does come up in conjunction with substance use (and abuse), and I would never belittle the suffering of its victims, but I ask you to look at Stanford statistics in comparison with any other school before calling our campus unsafe. 

    Your suggestion to have people constantly prove their innate worthiness to the gods of housing goes against the atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance I know I was looking for when I came to Stanford.  I highly doubt Arrillaga would put away his checkbook if he deemed the school not to be fratty enough.  The money the Greek system raises for their official philanthropies as well as others (and I freely admit I don’t have hard numbers here) rivals, if not outstrips, that of any other group on campus, even if you take it by individual house.  Working hard for months to pull of an event for the whole campus is VERY different than putting in 8 hours on a chain gang by the side of the highway, and I don’t really see the connection between felons and upstanding members of the Greek community.  

    In summary, if you don’t like the Greek system, that is your own choice, and you have the option to not participate.  Personally, Synergy is probably not my #1 campus hot spot, but I know people who love it, and have yet to write an impassioned critique.

  • Boltgun4slavecattle

    Actually no, history has shown that making Greek organizations “have to constantly demonstrate why the deserve housing” has just been a tool for the university and people like you to move the goalposts on them and impose your personal whims.

    But it does point out the real issue for the Greeks, and that is: Why would you choose to live like in this second-class, permanently uncertain legal status where busybodies like Guest are constantly messing with you? Either get to a place and a legal status where you can live how you want to live or accept the fact that these other people are going to be running your life and that you are constantly going to have to cowtow and “negotiate” your freedom away to them. I thought we were done living with our parents at 18, you know? I thought this was Stanford. You can either accept the lesser alternative and waste the best years of your life defending the on-campus Greek system against these passive-agressive douchebags (and why, beyond why would you ever do that???) or you can take control of your life and build something worthy with your friends outside of their control.

  • Guest

    Greek: that’s a fair point; certainly not all people in greek orgs are the source of these issues, and greek orgs aren’t the only offenders and may not even be the worst offenders.  Still, those who do offend should take responsibility.  Those greeks that do great work and positively impact the campus should actually be the most upset because other greeks (like those mentioned in the article) are hurting their reputation.

    Boltgun4slavecattle: the point is that it negatively impacts Stanford and other Stanford students when some greeks (and non-greeks, of course) drink so much that they need to go to the hospital.  First of all, Stanford is liable, so they need to pay more lawyers and create offices like OAPE and pay administrators to chastise fraternities, which affects everyone’s tuition.  It also doesn’t reflect well on Stanford when these things happen on campus, which hurts the school’s reputation and by transitivity my reputation.  I don’t care if people abuse alcohol and they take responsibility for it and it doesn’t impact me (well, I want them to get help, but I’m not upset).  But its ridiculous that greeks see Stanford as infringing on their ‘right’ to have fun.  Why should they get a house if the way they use it negatively impacts the campus?  Because they have had it for 40 years?  Because their alumni donate a lot to Stanford?  Because they are having fun?  I don’t think those are good reasons.  They aren’t entitled to housing or university funding, and there are other students and student groups who are more deserving but are missing out.  

    In response to the whole ‘Stanford is not letting us have fun’ argument, is it really fun to get transported to the hospital? I do drink, but the couple of times I’ve vomited as a result of alcohol I was not having fun, and I can’t imagine that paying for the ambulance would be fun either.  Is the type of gendered culture that supports sexual assault fun?  Certainly not for those assaulted or those who live in fear of assault, but I also don’t think those who assault are having a lot of fun either.

  • Interarbeiter

    You must not go to Stanford; in my four years here, I have never seen nor heard of even a small group of students that “support sexual assault.” 

    That includes every single member of the Greek community that I have met.

  • My Thoughts

    Regarding Greek members supporting sexual assault, I don’t know if that is the case, but I have heard multiple stories of the ways with which some fraternities on campus objectify women.  Doesn’t one frat require pledges to invite women and girls found online to parties with the sole intention in mind of having sex with them?  Obviously that is at the extreme end, but judging by the people I know in the fraternity system (and this doesn’t hold true for all frats), they are on the whole more intolerant of gender and sexual orientation.  And I think the Greek system only magnifies that mindset.

    Regarding drinking, as a freshman RA I can attest that bid week was awful, and this applies to both fraternities and sororities.  It really left a sour taste in my mouth: the very first non-dry experience my residents had in their respective fraternities or sororities often resulted in extreme and reckless drinking behavior.  Surely the Greek organizations are to blame for that, whether by forcing members to drink or by creating an overwhelming social pressure to do so. 

    Let’s not kid ourselves: the majority of these are not philanthropy organizations, they are social collectives who overwhelmingly view alcohol as the desired means to achieve their social ends.  Any philanthropy aim is second in importance: no one joins Sigma Nu because the proceeds from Snowchella help sufferers from HIV/AIDS in Tanzania. 

    Frankly I would be concerned if ResEd allowed this behavior to continue.  It is not a problem internal to the Greek system, as “Greek” suggests by writing “if you don’t like the Greek system, you have the option not to participate.”  It affects the entire campus, from freshman residences and staff members to the status of our university as offering a safe and tolerant environment. 

    To be fair, there are many members of fraternities and sororities who I hold in high regard.  Additionally, aside from the two major problems mentioned above, I think the existence of Greek organizations are overwhelmingly a net benefit to this campus; the University I think views them the same way.  And yes, Greek organizations are not the only ones who partake in and encourage reckless drinking behavior.  You mentioned the Band- they’re on alcohol probation right now.  The University is not putting the entire blame on the Greek system, and I don’t think anyone was arguing that. 

  • Guest

    Interarbeiter,

    You and I have a different definition of support. Sure, presented with a clear case of rape I’m sure every member of the Greek community would be outraged. 

    Support can mean a lot of things, though. It can mean providing the means to accomplish a goal. It can also mean providing safety for those who commit offenses (even those who do not think what they have done should be considered an offense). Greek life does both those things.

    It provides girls, not always from Stanford, and it provides alcohol (often to minors). If you think that there are not fraternities that provide excessive amounts of alcohol to girls with the hope of exchanging sexual acts, you’re kidding yourself. If you think there are not sororities out there that encourage new recruits to drink excessively with men – who have a much higher tolerance level and are in a position to take advantage of that recruit – then you’re kidding yourself. 

    Greek life can also provide a veil of protection for students in cases when sexual assault is ambiguous, which is almost all the time (unfortunately sexual assault is often a crime with few witnesses). What is the Greek community’s stance on changing the burden of proof in sexual assault cases, making rape kits accessible at the Stanford hospital so that victims are not forced to travel to San Jose if they want to acquire evidence against their attacker, or encouraging women who have been assaulted to report the incident to the police (remember, we’re talking about a crime that is a felony here). I know people who have been sexually assaulted in Greek houses – they are encouraged to “not rat out friends” and “just forget about it.” 

  • Not “drinking clubs”

    I rushed ISC and joined a sorority in my freshman year precisely because the majority of the people in my freshman dorm only drank to have fun, and that wasn’t me. In high school I never drank; my friends and I would just go out to the movies or go shopping on the weekends. The Greek system provided me, personally, with an escape from the alienating social structure of my freshman dorm and brought me back to the type of friendships I had back home. In my sorority, we do have social events, and certainly the majority of those social events include alcohol and EANABS, but these events are optional, and only a fraction of our members attend. More importantly to me, however, is that in addition to this smattering of social events, we also have a large proportion of sisterhood events, where we hang out with each other in non-drinking scenarios, eat cupcakes, watch TV, go ice skating, paint our nails, play frisbee, fountain hop, have fraiche dates, go out to dinner on University Ave., etc., all without alcohol. We also host study groups in Old Union, meet up for chapter meetings, and are provided mentorship opportunities with alumnae. We host philanthropy events for the entire campus and we participate in other Greek organizations’ philanthropy events as well. We take on leadership positions, learn how to be liaisons for nationals, alumnae, and student members. We send cards to our girls who are abroad. On the whole, we are a network of friends who, since we have such a variety of backgrounds and interests and take part in such a wide range of other activities on campus, would never have been brought together in any other way than through the Greek system. I think we can all agree that random friends from all corners of Stanford come together on weekend nights to drink together, regardless of whether their friendship stemmed from an organization/affiliation with the Greek system, or a shared housing situation in Bob, or a mutual interest in the performing arts, or any other connection. Of course, just saying that “everybody does it” does not make something OK. But it is also disheartening to think that ResEd views Stanford Greek organizations as nothing but “drinking clubs,” when, based on my personal experience as a Stanford Greek member, this is so far from the case.