Hundreds of fraternity houses across the US will no longer allow frat members to serve hard liquor, according to a self-governing policy announced Tuesday in the wake of growing outrage over alcohol-related hazing deaths.
The North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) policy effectively means that most of the nation’s fraternities cannot dole out strong booze unless it is served by a licensed third-party vendor.
“At their core, fraternities are about brotherhood, personal development and providing a community of support,” Judson Horras, CEO and president of the NIC, said in a statement. “Alcohol abuse and its serious consequences endanger this very purpose. This action shows fraternities’ clear commitment and leadership to further their focus on the safety of members.”
The NIC is an umbrella organization for fraternities. The group said the new policy was reached in a near-unanimous vote and must be adopted by more than 6,100 of its chapters by September 2019. Those chapters are located on 800 campuses throughout the country.
Chapters have autonomy to set their own policies and rules, but the NIC has oversight over some broader policies, such as how the fraternities must implement alcohol rules at parties.
Fraternities in several states have been under fire in the past year for horrific deaths related to heavy drinking during hazing rituals and frat-house parties in general. Among them was the February 2017 death at Penn State of 19-year-old sophomore engineering student Tim Piazza of Lebanon, New Jersey.
Piazza died of severe head and abdominal injuries after falling several times at the Beta Theta Pi house the night of a bid acceptance ceremony.
Security video recovered from the house showed the sophomore and other pledges being plied with alcohol, and authorities later estimated Piazza had consumed three to four times the state’s legal limit for alcohol.
Piazza’s parents, Jim and Evelyn Piazza, have been vocal proponents for stricter laws against hazing. Efforts to reach the Piazzas for comment Tuesday were not successful.
“Please help make hazing recognized for what it is – abuse, cruelty and torture,” Evelyn Piazza said in a recent prepared statement.
She said her son “was sentenced to death by those fraternity brothers who mistreated him and now I am sentenced to life without half of my heart, half of my life’s purpose,” she said. “A statement needs to be made. This kind of thing cannot continue.”
The first of more than 20 defendants charged in connection with Piazza’s death was sentenced to house arrest last month. Ryan Burke, 21, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to three months house arrest in Lackawanna County, 27 months of probation, 100 hours of community service and fined $1,000.
In June, Burke pleaded guilty to hazing, four counts of unlawful acts relative to liquor, malt and brewed beverages and licenses, and one count of purchase, consumption, possession or transportation of liquor and malt or brewed beverages.
Burke was originally facing charges of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangering another person.
The NIC said in a statement that its new alcohol policy will prohibit “the presence of alcohol products above 15% ABV in any chapter facility or at any chapter event, except when served by a licensed third-party vendor.” Most beer and wine is below 15% ABV.
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