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Disaffiliation, hard alcohol ban: How Greek life is changing at University of Michigan

Students cheer on the Wolverines at the first home game of the season on Sept. 8, 2018 (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)
Students cheer on the Wolverines at the first home game of the season on Sept. 8, 2018 (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

ANN ARBOR – Since the beginning of the month, several developments involving fraternities at the University of Michigan have been making headlines.

First, the North American Interfraternity Conference announced a ban on hard alcohol products -- those with more than 15 percent alcohol by volume -- at houses and events. They may, however, be served by a third party, such as a licensed liquor vendor.

The NIC requires that the policy be implemented by member fraternities by Sept. 1, 2019.

The decision will impact 66 national and international fraternities, spanning 6,186 chapters on 800 campuses. The reason? To curb hazing and alcohol-related deaths.

According to CNN, the number of fraternity-related deaths since 2005 stands at 77 in the U.S.

Beyond Greek life, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 1,825 college students die every year from unintentional injuries involving alcohol.

Sixteen fraternities at the University of Michigan are currently members of the NIC and are expected to comply with the new policy.

Meanwhile, six fraternities have disaffiliated from the University of Michigan, citing city of Ann Arbor zoning changes and the decision to postpone fall recruitment to January 2020 as part of U-M's new First Year Experience plan.

The zoning changes refer to a decision made unanimously by Ann Arbor City Council on July 16 that all fraternity and sorority houses -- new and existing -- maintain university affiliation to be specially permitted. 

This means that the loss of recognition from U-M due to low membership or extreme cases of hazing or sexual assault could see fraternity and sorority houses revert to single-family homes after two years.

The following fraternities are no longer affiliated with U-M:

  • Alpha Epsilon Pi
  • Alpha Sigma Phi                      
  • Delta Chi
  • Phi Sigma Kappa
  • Psi Upsilon
  • Theta Chi      

The fraternities are members of the NIC and are therefore still subject to the body's rules, as well as the rules of the University of Michigan. The move will not affect their national chapters.

U-M's Interfraternity Council recently released this statement on the disaffiliation:

"While these organizations maintain their right to continue operations, they will not have access to the institutions, programs, or support structures offered by the IFC or the University of Michigan. These structures include, but are not limited to, the Greek Activities Review Panel, the Social Responsibility Committee, the Hazing Response Team, and the Hazing Task Force."

These developments follow a rocky year for Greek life at U-M. 

Last November, the IFC suspended all social activities on campus while it investigated more than 80 incidents of sexual assault reported between July 2015 and June 2016. All activities resumed in January 2018.

That same month, the Zeta Beta Tau International Fraternity revoked its Ann Arbor charter amid allegations of hazing and violations of the fraternity's policies. It was the second time in four years the fraternity was shut down due to claims of hazing.

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