By Ceillie Keane
As new and returning students settle into Union’s campus for another academic year, traditions like brunch at West, hockey games, and Parents’ Weekend, are both expected and anticipated. Returning students also expect fraternity parties, a staple of Union’s social life.
However, one such element of this “weekend culture,” as Interfraternity Council (IFC) President Patrick O’Hern ‘11 describes, will be absent. Union is now an officially keg-less campus.
In 2007, it came to the attention of Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life Timothy Dunn that the presence of kegs at social events conflicted with the fraternity’s insurance policies (completely separate from Union College). O’Hern explains, “if someone were to slip and fall on a wet floor during a social event and wanted to sue a fraternity, the insurance company could refuse to cover [the fees]” due to the presence of kegs.
In response to problems with both insurance compliance and safety, Dunn issued a policy provision banning the fraternity’s use of kegs at social events on campus. This raises some issues in itself: “I’ve heard the decision to go kegless is a Greek one, not Union’s completely,” Briana Ogos ‘12 said, “therefore I think it’s going to pose a lot of potential problems. For one, people are going to start pregaming harder, and that’s stupid.”
Sigma Delta Tau sister Erin Osgood ‘12 shares the concern over pre-partying. The restriction of plentiful keg beer could drive some students to spend more time in their room drinking before heading to the fraternities. “Pregaming could cause way more transports and problems for the Residential Advisors and Residential Directors,” Osgood said.
The new policy launched fraternities into a period of transition, switching Union’s “weekend culture” from the traditional kegs to cans. This method of serving beer raised both questions and protest throughout campus with concerns for safety, financial efficiency, and sustainability. Each of these issues, however, have been addressed and dealt with by the Greek system, which has implemented the change.
Negotiations have been made with local vendors to deal with the financial strain and the potential waste. O’Hern states that Marc Nash ‘11, the IFC VP of Finance, has bulk, manageable prices that make the switch to cans “fiscally realistic for [fraternities].”
Dunn explains that the deals with vendors include bags to collect and easily return cans, allowing not only for recycling, but also for the deposit money to be returned to the buyer. This “environmentally friendly” method also encourages the use of cups when serving the beer.
Despite these compromises, the student body remains conflicted. Sam Robson ‘13, believes that the plan does not facilitate Union’s transition to a green campus. “The entire thing is not beneficial to the system,” Robson said. “I think it’s going to cause more trash and cans on campus, and most of them won’t get recycled,” Osgood said.
The plan to use cups is also supposed to reduce the safety risks associated with the distribution of beer in heavy aluminum cans. However, the campus has either not been made aware of this or the fraternities are not abiding by the policy. “I was out at the frats this weekend,” Laura Lieberman ‘12 said, “and there was a lot of concern by people about cutting themselves on the cans.”
Though a seemingly drastic change, many students have overwhelmingly positive expectations. Jay Shah ‘12, of Alpha Epsilon Pi, expects that “with or without kegs, the Greek life as a whole will continue to benefit the campus through philanthropic events, student leaders, and a safe, but exciting social environment.”
“[Greek life] has survived the Civil War, two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the premiere of the Jersey Shore, so I am confident that it will be able to survive the simple transition from kegs to cans,” O’Hern said.
This positive outlook seems to hold true outside of the Greek community as well, including Student Forum President Andrew Churchill ‘11. “It is up to everyone to come together in order to flesh this out. And as for the Greek life on campus, I don’t see it missing a beat either way,” Churchill said. “The Greek organizations are strong, well-run, and cared for and I have full faith that nothing will change that.’
This raises the issue of how the changed fraternity environment will go over with the entire campus. Tim Dunn agrees with Churchill’s statement, as reflected by his policy changes since becoming Director and in holding the Greek community to “high standards.”
Dunn encourages the members to “rise to the occasion, complying with changes set to better the community.” Dunn made a point to mention his immense pride in the Greeks, and the “positive progress and trend of responsible behavior” he has been able to witness and be a part of.
With one weekend complete and another one about to start, the anticipated future and outcome for the now keg-less fraternities will soon come to light.