Gallup: Fraternity Men Are More Likely To Suffer From Alcoholism. What Have We Done Since That Survey?

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“We must utilize the most powerful force for positive change – student leadership, but we will need to take strong action to provide guidance and an effective framework for that leadership and governance.” – Judson Horras, NIC President & CEO 

The above quote came from a statement from the NIC regarding new health and safety standards adopted in 2017 by a vote of its member organizations.

The policies will be implemented by September 1, 2018 by all member fraternities and include updated good samaritan policies (call 911 kids), health and safety programming (research-based, robustness, other buzzwords, etc.), and addressing alcohol abuse.

I have no insight into the fine print, the costs inevitably placed on students/parents, efficacy, or the quality of the research considered, but given that 2017 was one of the deadliest years with regard to hazing, I suppose none of this is unexpected – and the policy changes are welcomed by many.

This all comes a few years after a Gallup survey of more than 30,000 fraternity and sorority members concluded that fraternity men and women exhibit increased quality of life scores for many post-undergraduate categories.

They make more money, have a better support system, and all those other things we advertise to sway public opinion in our favor.

One category; however, was but a mumble both in Gallup’s reporting of the survey and fraternity/sorority press-releases associated with the study:

Fraternity men and women are more likely to suffer from alcoholism.

What have we done since confirming that one of our most virulent stereotypes holds chillingly true in real-world studies?

We “know” that chapter members regularly abuse substances (illegal drugs & prescription drugs, among other things) while in college. We know that many members are suspected of sexual predator behavior.

We know that all of these things – addictions and behavioral issues – are linked to mental health, but I have yet to see a legitimate attempt to address our members’ mental health needs. (In fact, a Delta Sig who ran for our Grand Council, but who was not slated, made that the central focus of his campaign).

Instead, we get tough-talk and policy changes:

  • At Harvard, if you are part of an all-male organization, you can say goodbye to your positions of leadership elsewhere on campus.
  • Penn State enacted a zero-tolerance policy toward hazing after the high profile death of a fraternity member last year. (The word is still out on what their policy was previously, semi-tolerance?)
  • Schools unaffected by disasters, such as Ohio State & Michigan, have preemptively enacted policies or community suspensions to prevent such atrocities from occurring.

Fraternity and sorority headquarters too are enacting new policies. Sigma Phi Epsilon recently adopted an alcohol-free housing policy, for example.

Do we really anticipate that fraternity men and sorority women, who have binders of checklists to complete, are going to take time out of their day to ensure someone they’ve expelled from their organization is getting the help they need?

Policies are fine – sure – but why aren’t we addressing our known issues with alcoholism and perceived issues regarding mental health as seriously as our need to teach leadership?

I don’t mean we pay a speaker $5,000-$8,000 to talk to our students about their mental health journey or that we put on a $120,000 educational program to train a fraction of our members to follow a rule book.

Instead, why not cut one leadership program and to use those readily available funds to support any student or alumnus who seeks help for their addictions or mental health? Why is it that when foundations raise more money, those funds always go toward some feel-good programming rather than toward a problem we know needs to be addressed? Student debt or mental health. . . they’re both being neglected by our organizations.

Why have we not collectively partnered with rehabilitation centers, Alcoholics Anonymous, and mental health professionals to provide resources to our members?

What we have said with each new policy and press release is, “These behaviors are bad. You’ll get in trouble if you do them. Get Help, but first don’t make us liable for your issues”

That’s a bit silly, no?

These “brothers and sisters” of ours are suffering from a slew of addictions and mental health issues and our best course of action is to criminalize it and teach them a lesson. Hm.

My college, fraternity and many other organizations have collectively spent millions of dollars on leadership programs I’ve attended. I’ve never once seen a legitimate, vulnerable, compassionate attempt by an organization’s leadership team to push help into the faces of those who need it as urgently as they demand we learn the five best practices of leadership