More than 6,000 fraternity chapters in the United States and Canada will be forced to implement a ban on any alcohol with more than 15 percent alcohol by volume, officials said.
The North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) released a statement Tuesday that its fraternity members would be adopting a new standard “prohibiting hard alcohol from fraternity chapter facilities and events.”
Under the ban, any alcohol above 15 percent ABV will be prohibited from any chapter facility or event. The NIC is ordering over 6,100 chapters on 800 campus in the U.S. and Canada to implement the ban by Sept. 1, 2019.
“At their core, fraternities are about brotherhood, personal development and providing a community of support,” NIC President and CEO Judson Horras said in a press release. “Alcohol abuse and its serious consequences endanger this very purpose.”
The new rule comes after fraternity pledges suffered alcohol-related deaths at Louisiana State University and Penn State University last year.
One Penn State pledge, 19-year-old Tim Piazza, died in February 2017 after a night of heavy drinking and a series of falls that left him with a fractured skull and severe abdominal injuries.
Ryan Burke, a former fraternity brother, was the first of more than 20 defendants to plead guilty to four counts of hazing and five alcohol violations in Piazza’s death. He was sentenced in July to three months house arrest.
Maxwell Gruver, an 18-year-old Louisiana State University fraternity pledge, died at a Baton Rouge hospital on Sept. 14, 2017 after fraternity members found him lying on a couch at the fraternity house and couldn't tell if he was breathing, police said.
An autopsy report revealed that Gruver’s blood-alcohol content level at the time of his death was 0.495, nearly six times the state’s legal limit for driving. The coroner concluded that he died of acute alcohol intoxication with aspiration.
The Distilled Spirits Council issued a statement Wednesday attributed to its interim CEO, Clarkson Hine, commending the NIC for taking steps to address alcohol abuse among fraternity members but adding that such policies should treat all forms of alcohol equally.
"Such an approach sends a misleading message that some forms of alcohol are 'softer' than others, and undercuts equivalence information in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, and the majority of college alcohol education materials, which teach students that 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine and a cocktail with 1.5 fluid ounces of distilled spirits each contains the same amount of alcohol," Hine said.
While the NIC’s ban looks to enhance the safety of its members, it may not be tough enough.
There is no mention of any means to limit the amount of alochol consumed.
Chapter facilities and events will be allowed to serve alcohol with more than 15 percent ABV under the new standard if it is served by a licensed third-party vendor.
The ban also targets hard alcohol but ignores beer, which is more common on campuses. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 12 ounces of a regular beer contains 5 percent alcohol.
Horras is hopeful for the new measure, saying that it “shows fraternities’ clear commitment and leadership to further their focus on the safety pf members and all in our communities.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.