Initiative hasn't affected Homecoming party scene

by Wendy Yu | 10/27/00 5:00am

Despite its goal of entirely reshaping campus social life, the Student Life Initiative will most likely not affect celebrations during Homecoming or other special weekends, according to those involved with planning the Initiative.

Held sacred by students both as a traditional link to the history of the College and as a much-appreciated opportunity to relax and enjoy campus parties, celebratory weekends seem to hold a special place in the hearts of many.

"[The SLI] isn't something that's going to affect the way people have fun," Sigma Nu Fraternity President Eric Shoemaker '01 said.

For decades, Shoemaker said, the big parties during the special weekends were held at fraternities and sororities, which created the perception that the Greek system would always provide the majority of the social options during these times.

The weight of the burden

Dean of Residential Life Martin Redman claims that this is an unfair burden for the Greek system to carry, especially when it possibly creates pressure to serve alcohol to minors, putting houses at risk for severe state and College penalties.

"Why do [the Greek houses] feel obligated to provide a social life for the campus?" Redman asks, pointing out that the houses only need to offer social options to their membership, and not the student body at large.

The Programming Board, which sponsors a wide variety of events with College funding for the campus -- often in competition with the parties on frat row -- will host a dance this weekend in Collis Center with a deejay from New York, hoping to detract some crowds away from fraternity Homecoming parties.

According to Director of Student Activities Linda Kennedy, no single action is ever a direct result of the Initiative, although the Programming Board has been given more opportunities to bring events to campus since the Trustees announced their Five Principles.

Reforming the system

Since the announcement of the Initiative, many fraternity houses have felt the need to tighten security and take a more cautious approach to party management.

"I think that people are more cautious -- there's always the thought lingering, 'what if this is the party that gets you into trouble [and derecognized]?'" Shoemaker said. "Nobody wants to see that happen."

Although houses have always faced the possibility of expulsion for breaking College rules, the threat seems more pronounced now, as Greek leaders recognize that the Trustees are more closely scrutinizing the fraternity system.

"Our party management has really improved since the SLI," said Chi Gamma Delta fraternity President Chris Burnett '01.

Chi Gam, which has been praised by Safety and Security for its enhanced party management techniques, now requires house executive officers to act as roving monitors during parties to make sure no one is too intoxicated.

Such actions have not dampened the excitement of Chi Gam's campus-wide parties, Burnett said, except for perhaps the enjoyment of its officers.

"It's not gong to detract from the fun, but we're making sure nothing goes wrong," Burnett said. "The SLI made a lot of [the reasons for that] clear."

Redman, however, notes that a lot of the changes in party management were initiated by ongoing efforts made by his office before the Initiative went into effect.

"We've been [dealing with risk and liability issues] long before SLI was a phrase," Redman said. "Everything builds upon what's happened before."

According to Redman, part of the explanation of why fraternities are more cautious about their policies is a "rekindling" of the desire to comply with the policies the Greek system created for itself when the Coed Fraternity Sorority Council rules were first established.

Whatever the cause, the social issues tackled by the Initiative will have consequences and, as Redman puts it, "the status quo isn't going to be acceptable."

The essence of Homecoming

Despite the changes, Redman said he does not think that the Homecoming culture will be fundamentally changed. He hopes that the non-alcoholic traditions, which are unlikely affected by the Initiative, will prevail and preserve the spirit of Homecoming.

"Lots of events center around Homecoming that have nothing to do with alcohol -- alums visiting, the bonfire, the football game...," Redman said. "It's really [these] things we want to celebrate."

Some, however, said that the alcoholic events are an important part of Homecoming, and constitute the bulk of the special weekend tradition.

"Each big weekend is when everybody goes all out [and] has fun," Shoemaker said. "That's not going to change, because everybody wants to do that."

Short of new policies that would affect parties, such as the ban on kegs, the Initiative does not have an effect on how some Greek leaders organize Homecoming events.

"The SLI is more of an idea right now -- I haven't seen too much action," Burnett said. "Homecoming culture is the same before and after the SLI."