PKS Frat Suspended for Alcohol

UVa’s chapter of Phi Kappa Sigma has had their charter suspended by the national PKS for alcohol violations. The organization’s charter bans possession of alcohol in the frat house by anybody, regardless of age. (I wonder what he’s got in that cup, standing behind that bar?) Said the director of PKS chapter services, “they were not willing to follow the rules…they pretty much forced our hand.” Eric Swensen has the story in today’s Progress. 09/04 Update: The folks at Phi Sigma Kappa point out that they are not, in fact, Phi Kappa Sigma. Turns out I linked to the wrong site. Apologies all around.

9 thoughts on “PKS Frat Suspended for Alcohol”

  1. I wonder how many other chapters have had their charters suspended. I know UVa has the reputation as a party school, but most college students are pretty interested in alcohol!

  2. Sounds like a pretty stupid thing for PKS to do, unless there are extreme circumstances that we don’t know about. College students drink alcohol. Fraternities in particular have always consumed lots of alcohol and always will. To suggest that this is going to stop is ridiculous. The whole idea of cracking down on college drinking is not a new one. If you look back through headlines over the last 150 years, you will find that every few years someone gets it into their head that they will stop this binge drinking once and for all. Maybe they pass a few unenforcable laws, crack a few heads, make a few examples. But it never, ever works.

    The truth that authorities continually ignore is that drinking by people 18-21 is normalized, acceptable behavior. The 19 year old frat boy who drinks a beer at a party is in no way out of step with our society’s norms or traditions. Which is why it is completely unfair to suddenly act as if that is not the case and punish them for acceptable behavior. And if you think that by creating an effort to punish those drinkers you’re going to change the social acceptability of the behavior, you’re just deluded. The fact that you may disapprove of something doesn’t make it socially unacceptable.

    Ultimately, enforcement of national fraternity rules, laws and school policies against drinking by people that age only creates a disrespect and resentment of authority in general. It makes organizations seem irrational and heavy handed when confidence based on other issues might otherwise have been built.

    I find great amusement in the fact that the same adults who chastise the fraternity students in question were permitted to drink at 18 in their own youth. The notion of a wrongness in drinking under 21 is a fairly new-fangled one which was forced down state’s throats in an unethical Reagan Administration requirement for the receipt of highway funding. Hardly democratic in it’s inception, the rule stands little chance of ever winning the consent of the governed.

  3. This isn’t an issue about morality… it’s about the legal liability. In an effort to curb drinking, the courts have allowed the national chapters to be sued by the parents of kids who got hurt or died at frat parties. Since the national chapters are being held legally liable for whatever happens at a single local frat house, the nationals have started applying the "no booze" rules. What normally happens, though, is that the nationals will just check to make sure the parties aren’t getting out of hand; if they are, the tell the guys "hey, take it down a notch, fellas." Unfortunately, not all local chapters take this advice and end up pissing off their nationals. So you get recolonizations/reorganizations/closings as a result.

    The main thing here is that it’s not a bunch of hypocrites forcing conflicting messages about social norms, it’s all about the nationals trying to cover their butts legally.

  4. I respectfully disagree.

    Virginia has no ‘dram shop’ law and there is no common law precedant in Virginia establishing liability for serving someone alcohol; let alone an opening to stretch such a concept to owning a building and failing to order the adult residents there not to drink. There is no existing legal device in the Commonwealth of Virginia by which the national chapter could be liable for the alcohol consumption of it’s local members. Period.

    Attorneys, please free to weigh in here.

  5. Okay, I will. VA Code sec. 4.1-317 declares, inter alia, a fraternity house where alcoholic beverages are stored, dispensed, or given away or used contrary to law to be a common nuisance, which means criminal penalties for an owner who knows about the illegality and does not put a stop to it.

    Furthermore, the fact that Virginia does not recognize dramshop liability will not help a national fraternity organization defending such an action arising at another school in, say, Michigan or New Jersey. The organization sets a national policy, and in any given jurisdiction the first local test of that policy may or may not be when a multimillion dollar action is brought. If the national policy is raised as a defense – "We took what measures we feasibly could to prevent alcohol abuse" – the organization needs to be able to show that it has always enforced its policy strictly and uniformly whenever it became aware of a problem, and that it was diligent across the board in looking for abuses. If it’s sloppy in enforcement in Virginia, where underage drinking is just as illegal even if there’s no server civil liability for injuries, that is admissible as evidence that its national policy was negligent in protecting against injuries from alcohol abuse.

    I agree that both drink-21 and dramshop liability are stupid laws, but we don’t have the luxury of obeying only the laws we agree with.

  6. I’m sure it can be confusing but the story is about Phi Kappa Sigma. Your link to the national fraternity site correctly goes to national Phi Kappa Sigma. However, your link to a local fraternity chapter on http://www.student goes to the local chapter of Phi Sigma Kappa.

  7. I’m not an attorney. But it sounds to me like you’re talking about the criminal side of the litigation–there are no laws on Virginia’s books regarding this kind of situation.

    But isn’t it true that the real threat of litigation comes from the civil side, where specific laws don’t come into play? What I mean is, I imagine that the national fraternities are not worried about being convicted of criminal offenses but about being held liable (for beaucoup $$) in civil court. Dramshop law or no, a jury in a civil trial might say "yeah, it’s your fault, pay up."

    I hope a lawyer will correct me if i’m wrong.

Comments are closed.