U frat presidents ban booze if nonmembers present

  • Article by: JAMES WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 4, 2010 - 10:55 PM

Two students have been linked to sexual assaults at U frat parties. Several students wondered what -- if anything -- will change.

Two University of Minnesota students have been connected to recent sexual assaults at fraternities, U officials said Monday, just hours after fraternity presidents banned alcohol from their houses when nonmembers are present.

Still, several students wondered what -- if anything -- will change. After all, drinking at campus parties and gatherings still will occur. Drinking that lowers inhibitions and eases precautions. Drinking that can lead to bad things. "I have a friend who said 'Wow, you're not safe there,'" freshman Jade Beauclair said. "But she's kept on going. She just might not get as drunk."

Said Eric Dawson, another freshman: "You just kind of wonder why people keep going."

Chad Ellsworth, coordinator of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, said those affiliated with fraternities are trying. The Interfraternity Council (IFC), made up of 26 fraternities, met on Sunday and approved a moratorium on serving or consuming alcohol when non-fraternity members are in the house. The moratorium is indefinite while fraternity presidents reexamine their policies involving alcohol, parties and outside guests, he said.

"I would be very surprised if there are no changes," Ellsworth said.

U officials will be part of that process. In a statement sent Monday to parents, Jerry Rinehart, vice provost for student affairs, said: "The university will work with IFC as they work to revise risk management guidelines and develop effective enforcement mechanisms so that guests and members can be protected."

The issue of safety and security at fraternity parties has come to the forefront in the wake of three sexual assaults reported at three different fraternities in the past two weeks -- the most recent reported on Saturday.

The first reported assault occurred on the morning of Sept. 18 at the Delta Kappa Epsilon house on University Avenue. A man barged into a bathroom and tried to rape a woman, police said. Neither the man nor the alleged victim are university students, officials said. A suspect has not been identified. The IFC has suspended the fraternity for four years.

On Sept. 26, a female guest at the nearby Chi Psi house "became intoxicated" and was raped, police said. Then, on either Thursday night or Friday morning at the Phi Gamma Delta house at 1129 University Av. SE. in Minneapolis, a woman who was at the house for a party said she was sexually assaulted. The 19-year-old woman reported the assault to police on Saturday.

No arrests yet

University officials said Monday that two university students have been connected with the two most recent assaults. But Minneapolis police Sgt. William Palmer on Monday would not confirm that.

"We do not discuss active criminal investigations," Palmer said, adding that no one has been arrested.

On a beautiful sunny day Monday on the mall in front of Northrop Auditorium, Beauclair, who was studying for a writing class with her friend and fellow freshman Kyle Brandt, said the assaults are on students' minds.

"I've never been to the fraternities. But people sure are talking about it," she said. "Still, people think it won't happen to them."

Brandt said he doubts the fraternities will be able to stick to the moratorium on drinking. "I don't know how they can enforce it."

Said Beauclair: "They can't do it forever. And, as soon as they stop, they're going to have problems again."

Jake Bendel, a sophomore from Lakeville who was tossing a Frisbee with Dawson, said his friends are not shocked at the news. He said he also is not sure what can be done.

"Really, a lot of my friends just don't go to the frat parties," he said.

Residents at several fraternities and sororities contacted Monday declined to answer questions about the assaults, the moratorium or the issue of drinking and safety at fraternity parties.

Several members referred questions to their national presidents or to the Interfraternity Council.

Ellsworth said fraternity presidents are committed to making the frat houses safer for guests and members.

"Everything that relates to guests and parties is on the table," he said of the possible changes the fraternities are considering, adding that the IFC will meet again Sunday. "We will meet weekly until something is worked out."

James Walsh • 612-673-7428

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