I never drank “Nile Juice” from the penis of a statue of a Sphinx. It was never on my bucket list, but the way alumni describe the expired tradition is weirdly enchanting. We would hear about the juice at Homecoming weekends, when otherwise absent adult men heckle students for living in a different era.
Our “big party” during my tenure was Sex on the Beach. I mention getting in trouble for that event as a chapter president in this post. It would be unthinkable to imagine Sex on the Beach happening today as it happened then. I would have been our last chapter president if my brothers had the livestreaming power of Instagram and Snapchat back in 2010.
That said, I would not want a party like that to exist anymore. A woman lied to campus safety about the concussion she suffered from our jello wrestling activity during my junior year. She proudly “defended” the fraternity from getting in trouble, and I felt at once grateful and disturbed. We were never “in trouble.” We placed her in harm’s way. Maybe we forget – or omit – the horrific aspects of our own good times when we tell the tales in later years.
Our Alumni Are Right. Fraternity Parties Suck. . .
Perhaps I will one day join fellow alumni and shame students for going to college in a modern decade with different rules. That being said, I am not sure that fraternity parties suck for the reasons many of us think they suck.
Fraternity parties don’t suck because they are no longer “wild.” They suck because students are not taught how to throw great parties – to be great hosts. They are taught to handle parties like one might handle surgery: sanitized and serious.
Drinking With Gloves On. . .
We who work in Greek Life have mastered the art of policy and safety resources. We roll our eyes when students suggest that fraternities are “social organizations.” We lay out the rules, we prosecute the offenders, and our standard for a “good party” has been reduced to, “no one died.” None of this affects how we socialize with other professionals, but students are rarely present to call our bluff in those moments.
Somewhere along the line, we labeled “party” the same way we label “rush” or “pledge.” Using the word marks you as a human treasonous to the almighty and noble cause of frat life. Parties are a problem to be dealt with – something we seek to amputate from the fraternity experience. Our “solutions” lack creativity, except for the occasional gif in an Alcohol Skills Training Program (ASTP) slide deck.
Balancing Two Extremes
Alumni want parties to be “wild” again, and so students up the ante to create something “epic.” They seek affirmation of their coolness by recording it and sharing those recordings with the usual outlets: TFM, Barstool, etc.
Professionals offer nothing but rules and threats, and so students work overtime to cover their tracks. The combination of alumni and professional desires is an obvious recipe for disaster. That disaster is playing out in real-time all over the news.
What would it take for fraternity parties to be great again? It is actually quite simple: We need to stop acting like Toby from The Office.
Challenging The Party-Planning Process
REMINDER: Follow the rules. I don’t have to say that. . . but I kind of have to say it.
Students: Exclusivity and guest satisfaction are the simplest ingredients to making a party “cool.” People should want to attend an event and the people at the event should forever remember it as a wonderful time. In order to do that, we must limit the number of people in attendance and make sure they remember the party as a good time. Simple, no?
How do we accomplish those two things? To start, we limit guests to friends. Strangers bring all sorts of baggage with them, they care less about maintaining the facility, and may put others at risk. That is simple enough. Make a list of your friends – the people you would like to party with – and invite them to your party.
No Cliques Please. . .
In social settings, groups of 5 or more people do one of two things:
- break down into smaller groups
- consist of one person speaking with an awkward audience of 4+ others watching and uneasily laughing and sipping
Groups of more than five are not fun. So, we limit the total number of attendees so that each brother can make sure that his guests are having fun. You have probably heard something like this while training for recruitment.
An easy way of assigning guests is to let brothers pick their guests.For me, the most fun parties were those restricted to the members of the chapter, those between the chapter and another organization, and those with a guest list. It is that simple.
“I’m Sure It Was Great Because I Remember Every, ****ing, Thing!”
You want people to remember your party as a good time. You want people to explain how amazing you and your chapter brothers are to their friends. In no way shape or form should someone leave your function sick, upset, or offended. That makes a better tabloid for CNN than it does a good fraternity party. How do we keep things memorable and light? It’s simple: drink fewer, higher quality drinks.
Natural Light is disgusting. It should be banished from fraternity functions. Provide drinks worth drinking; you only live once.
Check in with your guests (and brothers!) to make sure they are doing well. You know what makes a party terrible? An ambulance. Keeping tabs on your guests will let you, the host responsible for everyone else’s good time, know when to cut someone off before they pass out in a puddle of puke. Do not get people to the point of puking at your party. It is almost as disgusting as Natty Light. Also, you will probably clean it.
Save The Drama [Momma]
The great thing about inviting actual friends to your parties is that friends are “get you.” Friends watch out for one another. Prevent people from getting unnecessarily offended or from getting into harms way by surrounding them with people who have their best interests at heart.
Emphasize the value of being a good host to your brothers prior to a party. That does not mean you cannot have a good time, but the best fraternities throw parties for their guests. Make your guests count, make your party enjoyable, and you will find an improved reputation. Ensure your guests are having a good time and you can have a good time too!
I visited dozens of college campuses over the course of my career. Fraternity men would always brag that their chapter was “the one others thought was chill.” Follow these tips, loosely based on the policies you are likely mandated to follow anyway, and you might actually be chill.
You don’t need Nile Juice from the penis of a Sphinx to have a jolly good time. You just need to care about your guests, socially train your brothers, and respect your facility.
In Conclusion: No More Toby
Students: I hope that you learned a valuable lesson in making your parties more fun, less about fame, and therefore less desperate or lame.
Greek Life Professionals: I hope that – even if you hate how I went about it – you came to the conclusion that fraternity parties are not surgery. Try considering how to make a party a good time, not just a safe time, and you’ll find it easier to explain rules and policies. Learn to persuade.
Alumni members attending a Homecoming event: Shut up and stop living in the past.
Maybe one day schools will create a space where hosting a fun, rule-abiding party isn’t an expensive circus of hoops to jump through. I dunno – I’m just spitballing here.