Greek members may face freshmen housing regulations

Ashley Gonzalez, Evergreen reporter

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Freshmen interested in living in a Greek chapter house may have to rethink their living situation if WSU’s Presidential Task Force on Alcohol and Drugs’ recommendation becomes policy.

Alcohol Task Force Chair Bruce Wright presented the recommendation to not allow freshmen to live in fraternity houses to the WSU Board of Regents on Sept. 6.

“The task force overall is interested in promoting a vibrant, healthy Greek community and decreasing the culture of risk,” Wright said.

The recommendation is an idea that offers freshmen a safer transition from high school to college, he said.

“Many fraternities here already don’t house freshmen with beneficial effects upon rates of alcohol related problems, recruitment and other indices of chapter health,” he said.

While the Alcohol Task Force promoted policies on student safety and drugs and alcohol use, the task force based the recommendation restricting fraternity freshmen from living in chapter houses on conducted research.

There is national evidence supporting the task force’s recommendation. Greek Community students living in Greek homes are at increased risk for alcohol related problems including violence and injuries, he said.

“Both nationally and locally, students in the Greek system, particularly fraternity men, are at higher risk for binge drinking and alcohol related harm,” Wright said. “For example, last year, Greek students comprised about one-third of students presenting to the (emergency department at Pullman Regional Hospital) for alcohol related problems. This is disproportionately high relative to the general WSU student population.”

Dean of Students Melynda Huskey, along with Wright, found that while freshmen fraternity men are at an increased risk, sorority women are not.

Not many freshmen women have the opportunity to move into a sorority due to the amount of women living in the house, Huskey said.

ASWSU President Taylor Hennessey said they are making it progressively harder for freshmen men to move into fraternities.

He said the recommendation is a touchy subject. Living in the chapter house is a tradition, and as a Beta Theta Pi, he said he had a positive experience living in his Greek house his freshman year.

Hennessey said the peer reviewed research cited by the task force is 15-20 years old, and Greek life in the 90s was very different.

Huskey said research shows students are most vulnerable during the transition period from high school to college. Their focus is to increase students’ likelihood of having protective factors and reduce their exposure to risk, she said.

The Alcohol Task Force focused on directing policies to non-Greeks as well, such as developing a range of preventive interventions for freshmen, encouraging parents to have discussions with their students about alcohol and drug choices and developing alcohol-free housing in residence halls.

“A lot of what we’re hoping to do is strengthen the capacity of students to intervene with other students,” Huskey said.

She said she anticipates that the proposed recommendation for fraternity freshmen will develop and process in two years. They are unlikely to make rapid changes because they do not want to negatively impact the Greek community, she said.

Wright said the recommendation will be discussed more in upcoming weeks. It needs more discussion, and if it is implemented it will need to be done thoughtfully and gradually, he said.