Earlier today, the University of Virginia released their Fraternal Organization Agreement Addendum of Inter_fraternity Council (IFC) Fraternities. You can find links to the Fraternal Organization Agreement, and new addenda covering the other three councils at this link, but this blog will focus on the IFC addendum. The Washington Post, along with many others (The Daily Cavalier, Huffington Post), has an article with some thoughts and comments.
As a couple of my colleagues have noted, this new agreement brings UVA fraternities to a level of policy consistent with FIPG from about 20 years ago. It also explicitly encourages behavior that violates virtually every national fraternity risk management policy, and thus supports behavior that would invalidate insurance coverage should an incident occur. It may also increase liability exposure to the University.
As some of the articles have noted, there is no mention of underage drinking in this agreement. In my opinion, it would be very smart of the University in particular, and the fraternities as well, to explicitly state that underage drinking is prohibited in these organizations. National fraternities already state in their policies that underage drinking is prohibited, and it is usually specifically stated as an activity that will revoke organizational insurance coverage.
Among my other questions:
- It appears that the addendum only covers fraternity house parties, and does not apply to third-party, off-site, events. What policies apply for those events? Are they required to be registered?
- Why are their two tiers of parties? Why does it matter if their are an equal number of guests, or more guests than members?
- It appears that the tiers are actually intended to differentiate between events with a hired bartender and BYOB events? If so, those types of events have very different expectations for hosts, and are covered by most fraternity policies.
- Although I have inferred that Tier II parties re BYOB, there is no indication that BYOB policies and procedures are expected. If not, who is purchasing the alcohol and funding the party? It states that at Tier II parties, individuals are allowed to bring their own hard alcohol to be left at a central bar and distributed by a sober brother. That is also a direct violation of most (probably all) national fraternity policies. (By the way, what training do these sober brothers have to oversee this designated central bar?)
- The policy also requires “sober brother monitors” for these house parties. How are these individuals trained? Who provides oversight for them? Why would anyone accept the personal liability of serving in this role?
- The policy explicitly prohibits common containers, pre-mixed drinks, kegs, etc. Has any national fraternity policy allowed these in the past twenty years?
I guess it is good to see UVA make a move toward implementing proven alcohol parties for fraternity house parties. On the other hand, it would probably make more sense to go all the way and fully implement policies that are consistent with existing policies of the national fraternities. What they appear to have with this implementation is a set of policies that are less strict than the national organizations. This results in the local chapters likely operating outside of their national policies (and thus not covered by insurance), and the university enforcing policies that are outdated.
Oh, and by the way, none of this appears to address the concerns raised by the Rolling Stone article, nor do they appear to be connected to the reasoning behind the shut down of fraternity activities since November.