About 200 University of Nebraska-Lincoln greeks gathered April 26 to begin creating safer drinking environments at all social events and to lay the foundation for lasting change.
The student-led effort was the latest in a year-long discussion in the university’s greek community about ways to create a healthier, more educated culture regarding alcohol, organizers said. By the end of the two-hour roundtable at the Nebraska Champions Club – which was attended by chapter leaders and fraternity and sorority members from freshmen up to seniors – participants had charted a path toward their goal.
Each chapter resolved to closely evaluate the drinking culture in their fraternity or sorority, and to determine what effect it might have on their chapters, from reputation to recruiting and retaining new members. And they encouraged every greek chapter at the university to participate in an alcohol training session offered by the University Health Center.
“We know that this is only a first step in what we hope can be a larger, positive change,” said Brennan Costello, a junior agribusiness major, vice-president of FarmHouse fraternity and one of the student facilitators. “What was most gratifying was the obvious desire among everyone to create something that will continue, something that will last.”
Earlier this year, the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council, the governing organizations of UNL fraternities and sororities, approved a bylaw amendment that would govern conduct at unofficial social events, multi-chapter events, off-campus venues, alumni and parent events and other gatherings. The decision touched off a discussion about what elements must be in place to create a safe, responsible culture when it comes to alcohol.
Leaders from IFC and Panhellenic also participated in the April 26 sessions, in addition to members of FarmHouse, which is currently suspended by the university following an alcohol-related death.
“I am proud of our students for the work they have done to identify risky behaviors and for taking measures to create safer social environments for their members,” said Linda Schwartzkopf, director of greek affairs. “They are committed to continuing the conversation, particularly with the 1,000-plus new members we will welcome to our greek community in August.”
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Juan Franco and Dean of Students Matt Hecker spoke briefly at the start of the meeting before leaving students to their work. They emphasized their support and discussed the benefits the greek system brings to students, the university and the community at large.
Then students broke into small groups, which were facilitated by greek leaders. Duke Engel, a licensed alcohol and drug counselor who is a member of the University Health Center’s CAPS team, was on hand to facilitate the event.
The sessions delved into greeks’ wide-ranging views of their community, its current state and what steps they can take to promote responsible drinking. Students considered a range of questions, including: What do you think about the current culture of the greek system, including its social culture? What should stop, start or continue? If you could have a perfect social atmosphere within the system, what would it look like? Can the greek system’s social policies be improved? If so, how? And how should we hold one another accountable?
The answers and insights gained from those questions can now be used to begin conversations within each individual greek chapter at UNL – conversations that will last well into the fall semester and beyond, said Ryan Drvol, a junior mechanical engineering major, president of FarmHouse and an event organizer.
“A great aspect of this roundtable was that it wasn’t just presidents of chapters or other leaders,” Drvol said. “We had freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors in the same room – people who are influential socially and in leadership in their chapters– who are now an important part of this discussion.”