MSU fraternities ban hard liquor
By Gail Schontzler
Feb 8, 2019
Fraternities at Montana State have voluntarily given up hard liquor, joining a national trend fueled by hard alcohol’s links with sexual assaults and hazing deaths.
Matt Caires, MSU dean of students, told University Council members this week that the seven fraternities had adopted the policy to be “hard alcohol free.”
Fraternity members were going room by room, collecting and disposing of old bottles of Jack Daniels whiskey and other hard liquor, Caires said. He praised the students for agreeing to adopt the policy.
“It’s the first ‘bottom-up’ alcohol policy we actually support,” quipped Chris Kearns, vice president for student success.
Tory Johnson, an Alpha Gamma Rho member and the MSU Interfraternity Council president, said Thursday that all the fraternity presidents and representatives voted for the new policy to take effect Jan. 31.
“We wanted to make a safer community for members and everybody else,” said Johnson, 20, an agricultural business major from Colorado.
“I feel like it’s a great decision,” Johnson added. When he was AGR’s risk manager, he said, “I never had a problem that didn’t stem from hard alcohol. And it kind of gets our image more positive.”
The North American Interfraternity Conference has been moving toward a hard liquor prohibition. It passed a resolution last fall that member fraternities must adopt policies by Sept. 1, 2019, prohibiting drinks with higher than 15 percent alcohol content (or 30 proof) at fraternities and their events except when served by licensed third-party vendors, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported.
“We wanted to take the initiative before they banned it,” Johnson said. “There are universities all over the country going hard-alcohol-free.”
Nationally the push against hard liquor has been sparked by the tragic deaths of students at fraternity parties, including those at Penn State, Louisiana State and Florida State, the Chronicle reported. In Montana, attention has been focused on sexual assaults in the news at the University of Montana and MSU.
“Since 2013 we’ve been working incredibly hard to get their attention about the harm caused by hard alcohol,” Caires said, adding that every major sexual assault case he has seen involved hard alcohol.
Most MSU fraternities can still serve beer and wine to people over 21, Caires said. The difference is that hard alcohol gets people intoxicated much faster, and it’s much easier for people to drink too much too fast and pass out.
Caires said the fraternities’ decision involved a compromise. His office had been interested in ending an exemption that for decades has allowed a small group of freshmen to get out of their dorm contracts early and start living in fraternities after the semester break in January. But the fraternities want to keep the exemption because it helps with recruiting and leadership, he said.
Caires said the university has decided to allow the exemption to continue.
Asked if the hard liquor ban is enforceable, Johnson said yes. At AGR, he said, members made a big sweep through the house. The fraternity already has a zero-tolerance policy for drugs.
“Our president is making (hard alcohol) the same thing,” Johnson said. “If you’re caught, you’ll no longer be a member. Fraternities are taking it really serious.”