COUNTERPOINT: Vasquez dispute ignores real issues of responsible drinking

After attending a party at USC’s Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, UC Berkeley soccer player Eloi Vasquez tried to run across the Interstate 10 freeway and was subsequently killed in the early morning hours of March 28, 2015. Vasquez’s parents are now suing the national student executive board of TKE for serving their son alcohol although he was under 21 and even after, they claim, it seemed evident that Vasquez was unable to take care of himself. While it is understandable that Vasquez’s parents would want to alleviate their grief with some sort of blame, their lawsuit is misguided, should be and will be immediately thrown out of court.

The implication of this reasoning is that every greek party should card attendees and not serve to those who are underage. This would only be fair if every party affiliated with USC did the same. Not only is this unfeasible, but it also discounts the importance of personal responsibility. The fact is that kids in college will always find a way to drink alcohol, and the University’s efforts would be far more wisely exerted by teaching students how to drink responsibly as opposed to sanctioning student groups in a misguided effort to prevent underage students from drinking at all.

An apt metaphor for this situation would be abstinence-only education. Yes, completely abstaining from sexual activities is the only way to guarantee pregnancy and STD prevention, but it is unrealistic to expect every student to follow suit. Similarly, we can pretend that if frat parties carded, then underage students would not get access to alcohol. However, the fact is that the overwhelming majority of USC parties serve alcohol indiscriminately, and even if they did not, students would still find a way to get a fake ID, as many already have.

The obligation of a fraternity is to provide a party experience free from force, as it relates to sex as well as alcohol consumption. If the case of Vasquez involved him being involuntarily urged to consume alcohol by members of the fraternity, then of course TKE would be to blame. However, accounts of Vasquez’s tenure at the party in question did not allude to any sort of aggression, either by the members of TKE nor by other partygoers. Still, the onus is on the individual to moderate one’s own behavior and not force his or her own behavior onto others.

While I feel nothing but the greatest sympathy for the parents of Vasquez, the fact remains that a possible lawsuit against TKE is a fallacious blame game and would not prevent such tragedies in the future. While many of us may complain that USC’s mandatory AlcoholEdu takes a long time, it is an absolute necessity to ensure that Trojans are armed with the knowledge to make smart choices without sacrificing a good time. However, considering that UC Berkeley also uses the AlcoholEdu program, perhaps Vasquez’s parents could do more justice to the memory of their son by investing in the cause of alcohol education. It would be unwise to force the social extinction of the greek system, as its regulation in recent years has made fraternities increasingly safer and its extinction could lead to the prevalence of less regulated parties. Instead, we ought to focus on empowering fellow students to make the right choices, both on campus and as we embark on adulthood.

Tiana Lowe is a sophomore majoring in math and economics. “Point/Counterpoint” runs  Tuesdays.

1 reply
  1. Don Harmon
    Don Harmon says:

    Tim, forgive me if I seem a cynic, but you missed the boat. Several underlying actions are operating here. First, The parents are devastated and angry and seek to blame someone other than an irresponsible, inebriated son who was crossing the Santa Monica Fwy. at 0225 in the morning. Second, they sought a lawyer to “punish” the university and TKE, whom they blame for their son’s sad and premature death. Or maybe a tort lawyer quickly sought them out to get a fat payday, but in any case the parents and their lawyer will likely win their case. Juries are naturally sympathetic to a family who has lost a child whose adult life and college years were just beginning. Could this accident have been avoided by reasonable action from USC or TKE? I don’t think so. Sorry, but a 19-year-old student at UC Berkeley should be held accountable for his private acts, devastated parents or not.

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