Policies are in place at East Tennessee State University requiring student organizations that hold events where alcohol is served to ensure the safety of everyone attending.
“We have procedures and expectations for all student organizations with regard to events with alcohol,” said Joe Sherlin, ETSU vice provost and dean of students.
A student at the University of Tennessee was taken to a hospital this past weekend for alcohol poisoning when he ingested a large amount of alcohol through his rectum in a process known as “butt-chugging,” according to a media report. He was at a campus fraternity house when he ingested the alcohol.
Student organizations at ETSU desiring to serve alcohol at events are required to register that event through the Student Organization Resource Center.
“But they have to take steps to ensure safety,” Sherlin said.
Sherlin said ensuring safety includes having a security firm at the event, having appropriate protocol to identify persons of age to consume alcohol and monitoring by the hosting organization. The university also inspects each event where alcohol is served.
Besides these steps, Sherlin said ETSU has a program for new Greek community members that addresses alcohol consumption, hazing and scholarships. This program, known as “Greek 101,” has been in place since 2007 and all new Greek members are required to attend. By this point, every fraternity and sorority member on campus should have been through the program.
Joy Fulkerson, Greek life coordinator at ETSU, said in a typical year student organizations request between 20 and 25 events where alcohol would be served.
“So most of the events that occur through our student organizations don’t have alcohol,” Fulkerson said.
ETSU has 15 fraternities and sororities. Six fraternities are in the Interfraternity Council at ETSU and five of those have houses, though none of them are located on campus. A number of campus sororities have residential living/learning floors in Lucile Clement Hall, an ETSU dormitory.
Fulkerson and Sherlin both said there have been occasional alcohol violations at student events, though none have ever been as serious as the one alleged to have happened at UT this past weekend. Most of the violations involve disorderly conduct, noise violations or underage consumption.
“And when we become aware of that, we’re going to investigate it,” Sherlin said.
Actions taken for violations related to alcohol include sanctions, required education about alcohol, community service and restrictions. Severe actions could be the suspension of a chapter or expulsion.
Sherlin said about 10 years ago a hazing incident resulted in the temporary suspension of a fraternity on campus. In this incident, members of the fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon required pledges to crawl through broken glass and garbage during “Hell Week,” the Johnson City Press reported at the time. The chapter was suspended until fall 2003. This chapter has since been reinstated.
And a few years ago a fraternity on campus was suspended for a brief period and its national governing body was consulted for disciplinary measures.
“I think the key for us is educating our student leaders and their chapters ... to live up to their values and the values of the Greek community,” Sherlin said. “Our student organizations members do a lot of good on this campus and in the community. But where we have issues we try to identify them and step in early.”
Evin Dransfield, a senior at ETSU and member of a campus fraternity, is vice president of membership development for the ETSU Interfraternity Council.
He said the incident at UT was not representative of the Greek community.
“We try to put into place as a community anything and everything we can to avoid these types of situations,” Dransfield said.
Dransfield joined a fraternity at ETSU after getting here and realizing he knew no one.
“So a fraternity for me gave me the support structure I needed,” he said. “They really have been a family for me. It’s something I would not trade for the world.”
Dransfield said the incident at UT is upsetting not just because it puts the Greek community in a negative light but because there appears to be an overall lack of responsibility and concern for the members’ organization. He said the incident at UT did need to be discussed and not de-emphasized, but drunken parties are not what the Greek community should be known for.
“Across the nation, Greeks are very service oriented, give an unimaginable amount of time ... and I can honestly say I don’t remember seeing one time these types’ events we hold and those supportive things we do in the media,” Dransfield said.
For more information on ETSU fraternities and sororities, visit etsu.edu/greeklife.