The problem of the party ban

Most sororities in the US are not allowed to hold parties on their own premises. However, since partying is part of being a student, parties are moved to fraternity houses or clubs where this rule does not apply.

The NPC party ban

The ban on partying on one’s own premises is based on the rules of the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), to which many sororities in the USA belong. It dates back to 1987, when the rule prohibiting the consumption of alcohol in sorority houses when members under the age of 21 are present was enacted. The purpose of this rule was to increase member safety and avoid legal issues related to alcohol abuse.

Independent sororities

Independent sororities that are not part of the Panhellenic system often have more freedom in this area. Here are some examples of such independent or local sororities:

Multicultural Sororities: These sororities are often part of the National Multicultural Greek Council (NMGC) or other ethnically specific councils. They often have their own rules and therefore may have more freedom in terms of parties and events.

Non-NPC Sororities: There are sororities that are not members of the NPC and therefore are not bound by its rules. These sororities can set their own policies that allow them to host parties in their own houses.

Local Sororities: Local sororities that exist only at a particular university and are not part of a national network often have the freedom to create their own rules and can therefore hold parties in their own spaces.

Red Zone

Sororities’ reliance on fraternities’ spaces to party increases the risk of sexual assault, including rape, especially in the “Red Zone” – the first six to eight weeks of the academic year. Some studies suggest that the majority of sexual assaults on campus occur between acquaintances and that alcohol consumption is a major factor. Because parties are places where quantities of alcohol are consumed in boisterous moods and where students have social interactions, they can potentially be riskier environments for sexual assault.

Reducing the inhibition threshold

Inhibitions to sexual contact can decrease at fraternity parties for several reasons, and alcohol plays a central role. Here are some factors that can contribute to this:

Alcohol consumption: Alcohol lowers inhibitions and impairs judgment, which can lead to riskier behavior. Fraternity parties often involve a lot of alcohol consumption, which creates an atmosphere where sexual contact can be more frequent and uninhibited.

    Group dynamics: In a party environment, especially in a fraternity house, peer pressure can have a strong influence. Students may feel pressured to conform and join in, increasing the risk for unwanted or inappropriate sexual contact.

    Power structures: Fraternities often have a dominant role in the social hierarchy of campus life. These power structures can cause sorority members or other party guests to feel pressured to conform to expectations.

    Deliberate use of alcohol

    There is evidence that alcohol is deliberately used to reduce inhibitions:

    Strategic provision of alcohol: Fraternities may provide alcohol in large quantities and often for free to create a casual and disinhibited atmosphere. This can be used consciously or unconsciously to lower inhibitions and encourage sexual contact.

    Cultural norms: In many fraternities as well as sororities, there are unspoken rules and expectations that support the consumption of alcohol and related behaviors. This can lead to both brothers and sisters using alcohol as a means to an end to achieve social and sexual goals.

    Effects of the alcohol ban in sororities

    The prohibition of alcohol in sororities can indirectly increase the risk of sexual assault:

    Relocation of parties: Since sororities are not allowed to host parties with alcohol in their own houses, members are forced to go to fraternity parties where there is less control and influence from the sorority.

    Lack of safe space: Sororities have less control over the environment and safety of their members at fraternity parties compared to events they could organize themselves.

    Increased risk: The combination of a controlled environment and high alcohol consumption at fraternity parties can increase the risk for sexual assault, especially during the “Red Zone,” the first few weeks of the academic year when new students are particularly vulnerable.

    Is the ban still relevant today?

    The question of whether the ban is still appropriate today is complex and depends on various factors:

    Arguments in favor of the ban

    Legal aspects: The ban helps to avoid legal problems related to the consumption of alcohol by underage members. This protects the organizations from possible liability claims and legal consequences.

    Safety aspects: The prohibition is intended to ensure the safety and well-being of members. Alcohol abuse can lead to dangerous behavior and health problems.

    Responsibility: Prohibition promotes a culture of responsibility and awareness of the risks of alcohol consumption.

    Arguments against the ban

    Risk shifting: As previously mentioned, prohibition causes sorority members to rely on parties at fraternity houses where they have less control over the environment. This can increase the risk of sexual assault.

    Unreality: Critics argue that the ban does not reflect the reality of student life, where alcohol often plays a role. Controlled consumption of alcohol in sorority houses could be safer than uncontrolled consumption at fraternity parties.

    Equality: Prohibition could be seen as unequal because fraternities are allowed to host parties with alcohol in many cases. This creates an unequal distribution of power and control between the genders.

    The prohibition of alcohol in sorority houses contributes to the relocation of social activities to less controlled environments, which increases the risk for sexual assault. It is important that universities and Greek Life organizations take steps to improve safety and prevent sexual assault, including reviewing and adapting alcohol policies and creating safe social spaces for all students.

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