The presidents of 16 fraternities met with Dean of Students Maxine Davis on Wednesday night to discuss the recent spike in alcohol-related reports that has left at least three students hospitalized.
"It is really time for a change in the culture," Davis said.
In the first three weekends of school this semester, UTPD has received numerous reports of fraternities serving alcohol in frat houses, including to minors. Just last weekend, three different fraternity houses (Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Sigma Chi and Sigma Nu) produced ten underage consumption of alcohol citations and two arrests for underage consumption of alcohol.
"We almost had a student die who was allegedly drinking in a fraternity house," Davis said. "I don't want to talk to a parent and say, 'Your son has died,' or 'Your daughter has died.'"
The incident she referred to occurred during the first weekend of school, when a male student fell and hit his head in Presidential Courtyard after attending a fraternity rush event. He recovered in the hospital.
Captain Jeff Severs sat in on the meeting and said this fall reminded him of a similar rash of incidences, back in 1997. He recalled cars parked four deep on Fraternity Park Drive after game days and several dangerous alcohol situations. It was during that fall that the UTPD established walk-throughs in fraternity house common areas, and this fall they will once again reinforce their authority.
"After every home football game, you will see my staff in your houses," Severs said to the otherwise silent room.
Police Chief Troy Lane also attended the meeting. Although new to campus this year, Lane has worked for 16 years as a police officer on college campuses.
"80 to 90 percent of all crimes dealt with on campus are related to alcohol," Lane said. "If we cut the head off, then we don't have a problem."
The hype for Saturday's game against Florida suggests that drinking may continue to occur, especially if the Vols break their seven game losing streak against the Gators. Associate Dean of Students Jeff Cathey knows that a win could lead to a raucous night.
"Considering that all of our staff are on notice, I would just directly say to you that I wouldn't have a party anywhere near my house," said Cathey.
One of the key issues is the central distribution of alcohol out of coolers. Davis referred to the practice of making "hunch punch" as especially dangerous, and Cathey agreed, pointing out that the strong alcohol content in those drinks is often too much for underclassmen, many of whom are drinking for the first time.
Dean Davis appealed to the presidents, asking for their input to a solution that could increase student safety by decreasing drinking in the fraternities.
The gentlemen present met her with some resistance. Dan Forte, senior in chemical engineering and president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, pointed out that Greek culture has traditionally included alcohol in its activities, especially on and around game days.
"That's like asking, 'how do we stop breathing air?'" Forte said, jokingly.
Blake Hollis, junior in mechanical engineering and the president of Sigma Phi Epsilon, expressed the difficulty of balancing liability and safety, especially when parties are moved to local bars in an effort to keep underage drinking at bay.
"The bars don't work with us very well. They're all looking to make a dollar and let everyone in," Hollis said.
The Associated Press reported earlier this summer that the bars have had trouble with underage consumption due to realistic fake IDs. The Hill bar appealed a $15,000 fine and won, due to the passability of the fakes appearing at their bar.
The problem of blame was also raised. Hollis pointed out that nobody is forcing underage partiers to drink at the fraternity houses and challenged the fairness of punishing organizations for individuals' decisions.
Jenny Wright, director of Student Judicial Affairs, responded.
"I can assure you that it's not just the fraternity that's being held liable."
Some of the presidents suggested that a study should be done, investigating the potential ramifications of making UT a wet campus, like Lousiana State University. Deans Davis and Cathey stopped them short, explaining that their power does not extend to policy-making.
Forte summed up the mood in the room as the 16 fraternity presidents finally accepted the message. He resigned himself and SAE to Dean Davis' call for change.
"We're going to stop having parties," Forte said. "I guess we have to."