The University of North Texas decided to ban alcohol at all Greek events after a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity was hospitalized following a fall at a different fraternity house. Junior Dustin Starks was at the Delta Sigma Phi house on January 26 when he fell over a stairway railing around 4:30 am. He is still in serious condition with a fractured skull and spine.
Investigators said alcohol was provided to minors, including Starks, on and off campus during rush events on January 25 and 26.
UNT should invite all the stakeholders to the table and hammer out a plan to combat irresponsible consumption.
“Furnishing alcohol to a minor is illegal, and so is the consumption of alcohol by minors,” said vice president for student affairs Elizabeth With, in a statement. “When it comes to our students, UNT will not tolerate either, and we are committed to help prevent it from happening.”
Starks’ accident is undoubtedly tragic, but an alcohol ban at Greek life events will not prevent these kinds of unfortunate incidents. There are a few reasons why an alcohol ban is short-sighted, but the main one is this: If the college students didn’t respect the law enough to not provide alcohol to minors — and, as minors, not to drink — then why would they care what the university says on the matter?
By banning alcohol at Greek events, all the university will do is drive Greek parties underground. Instead of being at a fraternity house, they’ll be out in a cornfield outside the city limits, or at someone’s apartment where there’s less oversight and risk management.
The drinking isn’t going to stop, but where it’s taking place will change. Surely that isn’t UNT’s goal, but it will be the result. This ban also will serve to create hostility between the Greek community and the administration.
Of course underage drinking is a concern, and education on the subject is important. There are too many instances of alcohol poisoning and even deaths because of irresponsible actions and inadequate knowledge about the effects of heavy drinking.
Now UNT plans to create a task force to educate students about the risks of drinking. This would be a great step, but education after punishment generally falls on deaf ears — not to mention the fact that the majority of Greek organizations have not been found culpable of anything.
Teach these students how to recognize the signs of alcohol poisoning — and that the fear of losing a friend should outweigh the fear of contacting 911 if the situation calls for it.
A new university rule aimed to squash underage drinking will not solve the problem. There are already laws on the books, and it still happens.
Instead of treating the Greek life community as petulant children, UNT should invite all the stakeholders to the table and hammer out a plan to combat irresponsible consumption.
Teach these students how to recognize the signs of alcohol poisoning and how to treat a friend who is suffering from it. Teach them that the fear of losing a friend should outweigh the fear of contacting 911 if the situation calls for it.
Teach them that a $40 cab ride is far favorable to a $17,000 DUI. Teach them what happens to their brain when they black out from drinking too much.
If you educate students and they still choose to break the law, then that’s on them. But punishing those who are legally allowed to drink is the easy way out. It lets UNT claim it did something about the incident. But the university’s only accomplishment is damaging student relations.
It’s not that university shouldn’t have a say in Greek life. But this approach is heavy-handed. The administration would be smart to lift the ban and begin a teaching moment with all students, not just the Greek community, about responsible behavior.
The UNT administration is composed of adults. It would serve them well to recognize the student body is too.