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The 21-ordinance’s effect on UI greek life

BY MATTHEW GAITHER - GUEST OPINION | APRIL 30, 2010 7:30 AM

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There is clearly one topic in the 21-ordinance debate that few have discussed: the inevitable effect of the age change on sorority and fraternity life. For those who do not know, all fraternity and sorority houses are deemed to be “on campus,” which means they are tobacco- and alcohol-free environments.

The University of Iowa can hand down sanctions to any chapter because of violation of these rules, which has become a popular tactic to address the Animal House stereotypes of some greek organizations.

The 21-ordinance produces two very big problems for everyone in greek life. The first would be the regulation — and almost eradication — of places to hold social functions. Because bars will now close their doors to underage patrons and greek houses are continuously going through stricter regulations for in-house conduct, there will be nowhere for these kids to socialize.

With these restrictions, UI officials will be confronted with a lose-lose situation. They will be trying to tell college kids not to drink inside or outside of their homes, which will eventually lead to infractions of these set rules.

The lack of social opportunities serve as a catalyst for the second problem. Now that bars have restricted entry ages, incoming freshmen will look for any other outlet to have a good time, and they will follow any inaccurate stereotypes to get there. The UI will slowly become enveloped by young greek men and women entering fraternity and sorority life for the same reasons and stereotypes that greek society is trying to thwart.

Members in the grrek community are estimating a 30 percent increase in potential new members due to a new fall rush format that has been put in place for 2010. Add this to the interest gained from the bars closing, and now greek houses will have to select from a much larger pool of new members — one in which some freshmen will be joining for all of the wrong reasons.

On top of that, these new members will have very little respect for the organizations, which will lead many of the new members to break these rules. Consequently, houses that have been on campus for years and have put forth consistent efforts to revise inaccurate stereotypes could be reprimanded or even closed for one or two missteps.

Most people would say that as long as the older members of the fraternity pass on a level of respect for the house, then these situations will never happen. This would be true, but it only takes one incident to permanently damage a chapter’s image — especially in the skeptical age of fraternities and sororities that we live in. One misstep can result in a chapter being asked to leave campus.

As a member of a fraternity, I completely support the idea of holding our greek brothers and sisters to a higher standard in order to break free from the inaccurate stigmas. But this situation is putting too many college kids between a rock and a hard place.

Having strict codes of conduct is important to further the ideals that greek life is based upon, but creating an environment in which college kids have no place to socialize — whether it be at home or at the bars — is a recipe for disaster.

Matthew Gaither is a UI sophomore.


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