OPINION: Ban on liquor in sorority houses is outdated and dangerous

In 2017, Vice President for Student Affairs Ainsley Carry announced that incoming freshmen would have to wait a semester before they could join Greek life, citing concerns that rushing would conflict with students’ focus on academics. Already, the newly instituted policy puts a considerable financial burden on Greek organizations. Citing discriminatory practices and a restriction of the First Amendment’s freedom of association, five Greek organizations — four fraternities and one sorority —  decided to sue the University earlier this year.

USC’s dramatic overhaul of its Greek life and a debate over its rights is a reflection of the longstanding struggle of sororities for certain rights, particularly over the banning of alcohol at sorority events. The current policy, decided at the 1998 National Panhellenic Conference, forbids its 26 sorority organizations from participating in any activities involving drinking in sorority housing.

Executive Director of the Panhellenic Council Dani Weatherford stresses that there is “an expectation that all chapter housing facilities will be alcohol-free.” In order to host a social event, sororities are required to seek help from fraternities, meaning that they are not completely autonomous to do as they wish. Any sorority sister caught breaking the established alcohol rules faces potential consequences, including probation and fines.

This policy presents the clear disproportionate balance of power between fraternities and sororities. Because sororities are limited in their social ventures, they are forced to go to their respective brother organizations any time they want to engage with their members.

This dynamic forces young women into sketchy situations beyond their organization’s jurisdiction. Fraternity-controlled parties can bring increased risk for sexual assault and rape.

A study from Ohio University found that brothers are three times more likely to commit sexual assault than non-Greek affiliated men. Women in sororities are also 74 percent more likely to be raped than their peers. Fraternity culture perpetuates toxic masculinity, as it encourages the notion that men can take whatever they want, whenever they want. Since sororities often rely on fraternities for social purposes, fraternities may get the idea that they can control sorority members themselves. It is high time that sororities take that control.

Banning sororities from engaging in regular college-aged behavior — such as partying — is sexist.  Women, just like men, are entitled to free spaces where they can have fun and bond as a group. Sorority members shouldn’t be forced into uncomfortable and life-threatening situations because of a discriminatory and restrictive law put into place two decades ago. This isn’t a groundbreaking concept. Women should have the right to do as they please.

The fact that the policy has remained unchanged is baffling, but not when one looks at the overwhelming statistics and prevailing attitudes in society. About two-thirds of women believe that sorority policy should remain unchanged, according to a 2014 poll from YouGov. Many believe that spaces with alcohol can be dangerous for college students, and think that sorority houses should be no exception. However, this fails to address the root of the issue, which is that college-aged women are going to drink, and it is statistically much safer for them to do it in the security of their homes. Internalized misogyny prevents many sorority sisters from speaking out on the injustice they face. Silence from various fraternities at the University and on the national level with the prevalence of this outdated policy, hinders real change from being made.

As the University works to overhaul its Greek system, it should also strongly consider reforming the outdated restrictions placed on sororities. The safety and comfort of young women depend on it.