by Zachary Smith
arts & life editor
It is easy to look at all these new regulations and get up in arms, but it is important to take a step back and see it from the school’s perspective. With the long series of alcohol (many of which occurred among minors) and drug-related incidents and some of which involved trips to the hospital, it does make sense for the school to want to put sanctions on Greek life. After all, with the fraternity houses located on campus, the school is ultimately liable for problems that emerge from the row. By minimizing our risks, Millsaps minimize, the potential for litigation attacking the school.
The school wants to promote all the things Greek chapters do that improve the campus and appearance in the area—e.g., philanthropies, leadership opportunities and service. However, it wants to heavily sanction those social events that Megan James referred to in the interview as “important” to the culture of Greek life. Let us be sure though, the school is in no way saying that Millsaps students should not be able to enjoy full social opportunities. However, this writer infers from the sanctions that the administration clearly does not want those events to happen here. Obviously the school being liable for the mistakes of the student body is a bad thing, it is worth meditating on what some of those problems might be.
Before I begin that, I think it needs to be said that Dr. Dawn Watkins got one thing very right. The IFC should be able to do more than host a speaker and a cook out. Ideally the IFC is an executive board that guides the fraternities into the future. Given the council’s current strength, I think it is clear that the IFC lacks the ability to even hold them in line. By increasing the power of the council (maybe through the empowerment of the Greek Conduct Board), the school would be able to create change on the row by empowering the chapters to straighten themselves via the accountability created by IFC. This option is preferable to slapping sanctions on chapters without offering some sort of benefit or reparation for the removal of freedoms.
One problem with limiting the amount of nights chapters have on campus lies in its assumption that the dangerous activities present at events named “parties” will not be present at events without the name. Under last year’s system, most Fridays and Saturdays were registered as party nights by each house. Security knew to be on alert on those nights for dangerous behavior. The rules also called for “party monitors,” chapter members who monitor behavior and manage risks at parties, to be present at each registered event. If every weekend there are party monitors, then the houses will ideally always have someone managing risks. Under the new system, “sober monitors” are only required for those events meeting the standards of a party. The risk in that is worrisome.
As a sophomore, I find a major difference in the environment Watkins observed two years ago and the environment present today. The report mentions a culture where three nights of drinking are the cultural norm. It refers to our campus as “alcohol-saturated.” Having had the experience that I have here (and I am afraid I am speaking from purely personal experience), how in the world could anyone afford three nights in an alcohol-saturated campus when Millsaps expects so much from each student? Maybe, in the last two years, Millsaps’ administration has taken actions that have removed these problems by the root, but given that these sanctions are continuing, the powers-at-be must believe that that atmosphere still exists. Before these regulations on our row continue, it would be nice to have someone regularly studying that culture of the school. Of course, mistakes and accidents happen that can have very serious consequences, but to sanction Greek row under assumptions that many feel do not even vaguely describe it seems like a mistake.
Millsaps, as a college, is very lucky. By offering policies like the “opaque cup rule” and allowing the fraternity houses to play music with less chance of complaint, most drinking (whether of age or under) occurs in an environment that is in walking distance of dorm rooms. It occurs among the small, tightly knit population of Millsaps College. Most students don’t fell the need to host house parties in neighborhoods like Belhavenor go to bars, when they can have as good of a time at the houses. With increased sanctions on Greek row, students might decide that bars and other off-campus events are more worth their time. I worry that drunk driving will become a greater issue at the college with students now adding the obstacle of providing for a ride.
If these changes were the final word, I’m sure many of Greek students would be able to find solace and learn to work with these new regulations. However, none of this is the final word. There is still much still to come to Greek row, which could range from a switch to a spring recruitment period, to a policy of alcohol-free housing all together.
In closing, I think that it is important to know where this article comes from. I am a student who cares very much for the Greek system at Millsaps College. I write from a growing worry that what might be one of the best non-academic programs here might be being sanctioned to the point of losing the spirit and fervor that unites the organizations.