Big changes to off-campus party policies


Photo by Claudia Garcia

Trinity University has changed the policy for off-campus parties. The new system abandons the enforcement of specific rules for off-campus parties and instead provides nine recommendations with the central goal of harm reduction.

The guidelines were initially developed by a subcommittee of students, including representatives from Greek Council Executive Board and the Student Athlete Advisory Committee.

“Once we identified that we wanted to see a change and that we needed a new approach, the students were given a lot of responsibility in crafting the specifics,” said Jeremy Allen, fraternity and sorority life coordinator.

The Safer Parties Initiative seeks to reduce harm in four key areas: over-consumption, drinking and driving, violent behavior, which includes fights and sexual assault and neighborhood disturbances.

From the student subcommittee, the proposed guidelines passed through the dean’s office and administration to ensure it was in compliance with Trinity’s existing alcohol policy.

The final version of the Safer Parties Initiative includes nine recommendations to reduce the risk of harm at off-campus parties: ensure alcohol is not self-served and consumption is monitored, have alcohol served and monitored by a certified bartender, have a reasonable number of sober monitors, attend alcohol awareness training, ensure safe transportation, keep guests from congregating outside, limit guests to Trinity students, list alcohol ingredients used in mix ed drinks and post phone numbers for sober monitors throughout the venue.

The student subcommittee will remain active this year in an advisory role.

“It’s going to be more to help groups implement in a tangible way these recommendations, and serve as a resource for students to ask questions, give feedback,” Allen said.

Further explanation of these recommendations can be found on the Trinity website.

Jacob Spitz, men’s co-chair of Greek council and former president of Phi Sigma Chi, explained his role in shaping the policy.

“I went into [Allen’s] office and I basically described all the problems that Greeks were having with the policies in place, how burdensome they were,” Spitz said. “And I was like, people are chucking these out the window because we can’t manage this, it’s very unrealistic.”

Allen and Spitz both identified the BYOB aspect of the old policy as being particularly cumbersome.

“If I’m seeing something like that [policy] and thinking that it’s super unreasonable, then maybe my group’s not even going to try to follow any of the guidelines or policies,” Allen said.

This open dialogue was crucial in forming the Safer Parties Initiative. In the past, Tuttle explained, students would often register parties and ignore the specific procedures, or would not register them at all.

“That kind of undercuts what we’re trying to do, which is to work in partnership to create student culture where students look after one another,” Tuttle said.

Organizations are no longer required to register parties under the new guidelines.

“We wanted to make sure that the recommendations that we do have officially are rock solid and tight,” Allen said.

Recommendations that did not have overwhelming student support were not included in the final initiative.

Greek life representatives expressed enthusiastic support for the new guidelines.

“Not only is it trusting the student body to kind of police themselves, but it’s also giving organizations the autonomy to run parties how they know they’ll run more efficiently,” said Zachary Wooten, president of Omega Phi.

Some organizations plan to implement all nine of the recommendations.

“For us, we’re making them requirements because they’re just too easy not to. And, also, they do serve a good purpose, it’s to keep people safe at parties,” said Phillip Lopez, president of Kappa Kappa Delta fraternity.

The new recommendations, which apply to all off-campus parties, will not be strictly enforced.

“This is kind of a contract we’re making between students and staff, and we’re saying to students, if you do the right thing and you don’t create these problems, then it’s your private business off campus,” Tuttle said. “But if you create these problems, there will be serious consequences.”

Enforcement will take into account whether or not the guidelines are being followed.

“There’s nothing that anyone has to do,” Spitz said. “That being said, if something happens at your event and you’re not following any of the recommendations, that’s not going to be very good for you.”

“If there was a fraternity party and something bad happened and we investigated it, and the people from the fraternity came in and said, look we followed these steps, we made our best effort at this and we want to continue to do this and to work with you, I think we’ll be very open to that as long as we have ongoing dialogues,” Tuttle said.  

Some members of Greek life laud the new guidelines because they felt the old policy was unfair to their organizations.

“There were basically twice as many rules for what Greeks had to follow, which seemed very unfair. We had to jump through a bunch of hoops,” Wooten said.  

Tuttle explained that having separate rules for Greek life organizations caused tension between Greeks and athletic teams.

This factor contributed to the decision to focus more on individual rather than group accountability.

“We can say all we want that these are individual students, and they may be living in a house as individuals, renting as individuals,” Tuttle said. “But to the outsider, if they look like an organization and they’re hosting a party, and people are calling it an organization party, can we really distance ourselves from that?”