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University News

Undergrads question new alcohol policy

Possible rise in off-campus parties anticipated as consequence of alcohol ban at dorm social events

University News Editor
Thursday, January 22, 2015

Updated Thursday, Jan. 22 at 12:08 p.m.

Following the University’s ban on alcohol service at residence hall parties announced Monday, many students have expressed support for the administration’s emphasis on ensuring student safety and preventing sexual assault. But others have reacted with frustration and skepticism at the rationale behind and consequences of the policy change.

Kathryn Graves ’15, president of Brown’s Panhellenic Council, said she believes the new policy will “absolutely” improve student safety. “Only time will tell … but this is definitely a step in the right direction,” she said.

But in more than a dozen interviews, several undergraduates said they are displeased with the administration’s focus on alcohol instead of what they perceive as the larger problem of sexual assault.

Maahika Srinivasan ’15, president of the Undergraduate Council of Students, said she found the framing of the campus-wide email concerning, though she noted that she was expressing her personal view rather than that of UCS members. “Alcohol is not a root of sexual assault but a mechanism,” she said.

Emily Schell ’16, founder of Stand Up! — a student-run initiative aiming to foster dialougue about sexual assault on campus — said she is “glad the University is taking a proactive stance against environments in which alcohol can be served and sexual assaults can happen.”

But Schell cautioned that “alcohol is only one part of the problem” and “sexual assault can happen in any place where alcohol is served, not just in Greek program houses,” which were specifically mentioned in Monday’s campus-wide email about the policy change from Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services, and Russell Carey ’91 MA’06, executive vice president for planning and policy.

Insufficient bystander intervention and a culture of complacency are more significant than alcohol in facilitating sexual assaults, she said. “We have a culture here where people do not intervene in a situation where a sexual assault could potentially happen and, at times, allow perpetrators to continue their actions by not holding them accountable.”

Emma Phillips ’17 also stressed the importance of considering other factors besides alcohol in sexual assault prevention efforts. “We need to be really careful that we’re not conflating alcohol with sexual assault and understand that those are separate issues.”

“Sexual assault can happen independently of alcohol,” she said. “Rape culture does exist.”

Other students critiqued the new alcohol policy for its potential to encourage more students to drink off campus, where the University is not legally responsible for their actions.

Nicha Ratana-Apiromyakij ’15 said she thinks students will largely be able to avoid the ban by gravitating toward off-campus houses. “My well-being and my ability to spend time with my friends will not be impacted, and I think a lot of students will be able to say that,” she said.

David Correa Orozco ’15 said the summer social scene at Brown could indicate what the future of partying looks like during the academic year. “There are no frats during the summer, so what happens? People party at houses.” Students can easily communicate when and where parties are happening, even if off campus, he said. “If we’re going to party, we’re going to party.”

As a senior, Correa Orozco said the restrictions underclassmen and future students will now face are “harsh” given that parties on Wriston Quadrangle have long been “part of the Brown culture.”

Tauseef Khan ’15 said he supports University action to prevent sexual assault but suspects that public relations concerns fueled the recent measure. “It’s great that the University is doing something. I just think that what they’ve chosen to do is more a result of outside pressure.”

Whatever the University’s motivations, Caryn Cobb ’15 said, “In any way trying to make any sort of environment safer for people is great.”
Still, other students voiced unease about the policy’s long-term feasibility and efficacy.

“The policy seems like it should be preliminary and temporary,” said Will Serratelli ’16, co-president of French House. Beyond the campus-wide email, he said he has yet to receive any information from the University regarding changes French House must make to comply with the new policy. Serratelli said he believes French House will only have to cancel its one semesterly party.

It seems as though “prohibition” will fail in the long run, he said. Recalling his first training with the Office of Residential Life, he said he was told that Brown’s “self-governing policy”was in place to allow students to become responsible. “This policy goes against the Brown ethos.”

Students have also debated whether the punishments enacted against Phi Kappa Psi and Sigma Chi are appropriate. The University stripped Phi Kappa Psi of recognition and the right to program housing for the next four years after finding the fraternity responsible for providing a drink with the date-rape drug GHB at an unregistered party it held in October. Sigma Chi was prohibited from recruiting new members and holding rush and initiation events following an unregistered October party in its basement where a student was allegedly touched in a “sexual nature,” according to the email.

Schell said the fraternities deserve a chance to “clean up their act” instead of being scolded and punished.

Permanently banning alcohol at residential parties will deter fraternities from having productive conversations about sexual assault, she said. “If this alcohol policy is going to stay and keep being a draconian type of punishment, it would be ineffective because you’re never going to allow fraternities to reclaim ownership and make an active change in their community.”

Kavia Khosla ’16 said fraternities are a staple of Brown’s culture, and their “disbanding” eliminates a social outlet.

Jameson Snead ’16 said a few individuals, rather than “frat culture,” are responsible for the incidents that occurred at Phi Kappa Psi and Sigma Chi.

Greek Council wrote in a letter to the editor Monday evening that it “supports the University’s efforts to promote a safer environment on Brown’s campus.”

Leaders of all six fraternities and all three sororities either declined to comment or did not respond to inquiries.

– Additional reporting by Caroline Kelly and Kate Talerico

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  1. Sandana Valazquez says:

    All of us at Brown who care about our non-right to drink alcohol wherever and whenever we want: The way to tackle this ridiculous new policy is to help the pin heads named Paxson, Carey, and Klawunn to address what is really bothering them. That real bother is that they have the Feds breathing down their throats on title IX. Therefore, let’s all thousands of us pool heads and pool resources and help those incompetent administrators to identify campus rapists, to get them expelled – yes, expelled and none of these wimpy suspensions for 2 semesters thing, to get the expulsions put permanently on their university transcripts, to make the expulsions public, to make sure that university registrars and all professors include the full details of the transcripts in their communications with any other colleges, grad schools, professional schools, and prospective employers of the rapists, AND to cooperate with Providence PD (not the wimpy Brown DPS) and RI prosecutors to get those rapists arrested and put in jail. Then we can figure out how to help Paxson, Carey, and Klawunn out of their professional miseries (of which they have many, because they are incompetent and unethical).

    • This is excellent, thank you.

      My one hesitation is, given the incompetence demonstrated by the administration, how could us at Brown avoid driving punishment on people wrongly accused by the administration. They might be a minority but a minority worthy of protection. For example, see the other comment on this post about the Phi Psi case– if it is true that the accused are innocent but the administration has sanctioned them nonetheless, it would be highly unethical and counter-effective for us to perpetuate the administration’s errors.

      I don’t think this isn’t an issue without a solution but definitely one that should be considered if students take matters into their own hands.

  2. BDH says:

    “Phi Kappa Psi was stripped of University recognition and the right to
    program housing for the next four years after two students were given
    drinks with the date-rape drug GHB at an unregistered party it held in

    Actual evidence says this did not happen. One student clearly tested negative for GHB, and the two students shared one and only one drink at the fraternity by their own and others’ admission. Therefore, given the actual physical evidence and science, two students most likely were NOT given drinks with the date-rape drug GHB at an unregistered party at Phi Kappa Psi.

    Where is the word “allegedly?” Or why not drop the sentence altogether given that it most likely is not true at all, and the BDH should know this to be the case?

    Once again journalistic standards at the BDH are not being followed, and innocent people are being accused openly and inaccurately by the publication. BDH – say hello to the world of libel.

    • Are you the same guest as the other article? Is there anywhere other than anonymous posting in the BDH comment section that I can read students’ admissions?

      If not – how do you know? Were you a member of the conduct board and are leaking info? I understand you’d probably get in trouble if you were to admit that here but could you set up an interview with the ProJo or something reputable vs. anonymous internet comment sections? Brown couldn’t compel a newspaper to reveal who you are.

      I really, really want to see this stuff. In my heart Brown’s over-reaching in light of the title IX suit and general feelings about sexual assault but I can’t shake the idea that they know stuff we don’t that’s more incriminating but the comments keep implying the opposite if anything (that they know exculpatory things they’re not revealing)

      • H1: Member of the conduct board leaking
        H2: Member of Phi Psi leaking
        H3: Friend of one of the above leaking hearsay
        H0: Their info is false.

        It would be great to see this on a professional forum if they could truly be kept anonymous. My guess is that if it is H1 or H2, they are already risking getting in trouble with the Brown legal board for even just these types of leaks.

        • Assume I cannot answer this specifically, but definitely not H2 or H0. There are other options too – access to the lab that conducted the test may be one, for example. Or access to the administration would be another possibility. If you want to assume hearsay then that is your right. But when the truth does come out and the proper results are published or at least admitted by the administration, you will know that this Guest has likely seen the report. It really is just a matter of time.

          • IANAL but i believe that not only could Brown not compel the ProJo to reveal your identity as the anonymous source but also the reporter would be liable for any damages you suffer if they willingly choose to reveal your identity (assuming you have an agreement about your anonymity)

            If it’s as bad as you say it is – why not spread the word through a more legitimate avenue? The truth may never come out and certainly won’t come out for a while if it does.

  3. Sure hope no one is planning on having people over and cracking open a few beers for the super bowl. That’s an unregistered event with alcohol service in a residence hall right there!

  4. Why has nobody picked up on the actual process of registering parties? Student orgs and fraternities have to get approval from the administration up to six weeks in advance of a party. Then, they have to come up with a safety plan. Go downtown to City Hall and get liquor licenses. And if the org or fraternity is found to serve alcohol to underage students, or admit people beyond the maximum capacity of their party space, the administration then generally stops paying for security for that organization’s future events until they are again compliant. If that organization then wishes to hold another official party, they have to go through the same process with far more scrutiny from the administration — and then front the entire cost of private security themselves.

    I just feel like the process of party registration is such a headache, especially for fraternities and certain organizations that already (and rightfully so, in some circumstances) receive significant scrutiny from the university because of past events. As a result, I’ve heard of people who say they simply don’t want to register parties because the process is so bureaucratic and rarely ever worthwhile.

    If the university cares about student safety in the long run, I hops that it will also evaluate ways to make the party registration process smoother and get more buy in from the community. I’m not saying that the administration should let anyone and everyone have a party. I’m merely saying that if very few fraternities and student orgs are going through the party registration process (as far as I know, those that do bother to go through the arduous registration process do it primarily because they need to fundraise–not necessarily because they want to do something social), perhaps there is also something wrong with the registration process.

    I am not suggesting this is 100% the problem. But if the university’s goal is to stop this problem, they need to take a holistic approach that fully captures every part of the problem. Sometimes noncompliance isn’t just a culture problem. Sometimes its also a feasibility problem.

    • Actually, the university doesn’t pay for security. Houses are responsible for paying for GMCS, contrary to what we were told when GMCS was first introduced a few years ago. Otherwise, excellent comment. There’s a reason that there have been fewer and fewer Wriston parties over the years: they aren’t profitable and it’s a mess of bureaucracy to make them happen. Yet, people still hold parties off-campus where they are unregulated and a lot more dangerous. Make registering parties easier, reward groups that do a good job, and we can help create safe social spaces on campus.

    • “Then, they have to come up with a safety plan. Go downtown to City Hall and get liquor licenses.”

      That’s only if they are hosting a class F party (named because it’s a class F liquor license). These are the parties where they charge admission and sell alcohol. You can have a registered event that is free (and thus no license) if you have a limited guest list (which back when I was at Brown in 05-09) that you had to submit to the SAO. I believe it was only a 2 week notification, not 6 but it’s been a while since I was responsible for these things.

      • Invite only events, or Cocktails, are different. I’m not 100% sure whether or not you need to go to City Hall; however, you still have to go through University bureaucracy. You also still need GMCS. And they are a way to have regulated and responsible social events.

        • You 100% do not need to go to city hall if you are not selling alcohol.

          You are right about everything else.

  5. Tom Bale '63 says:

    So many of the people commenting are using Margaret Klawunn and the administration as scape goats. Of course Brown is feeling pressure, as it should, from the federal government as is every other college in the country to address sexual assault on campus. The ban on alcohol is hardly draconian nor is it a solution to the problem, but it is a prudent step. I have read only one comment that focuses on the responsibility students need to take in reducing sexual assault – stepping up when a man is out of line in his behavior toward a woman. Who is encouraging this type of action? Yet there is evidence that this would make a significant difference.
    One last comment. Long ago as a student at Brown alcohol flowed at all the fraternity parties I attended. It was the thing to do as if without it we wouldn’t know how to have a good time. For me I drank partly because I grew up in a home where alcohol prevailed in my parent’s social life. What if Brown had told me, “There will be no drinking on campus. You are too young, and too many problems (among them my good friend who died in an auto crash after drinking too much) come from drinking. Drink ginger ale at your parties. You really won’t miss alcohol after your first party.” I am very glad Brown is taking this stand.

    • Urpa Flugmann says:

      Margarett Klawunn may have the brain of a goat, but she is not a scape goat. All that drinking with your parents had killed too many of your brain cells, even given your age.

  6. Prohibitions stop nothing, and encourage more creative ways of getting around the law, which in this case, is a very stupid one.

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