During my time as student at Mercer University and as a chapter president at Georgia Gamma, I often questioned the effectiveness of an alcohol-free housing policy in the fraternity world. Mercer University is a dry campus, and although no fraternity was allowed to have alcohol in its campus facility, many chapters would violate this policy. As an undergraduate, I remember feeling challenged by the campus culture, and as a chapter we too struggled to meet the international expectations when others around us were functioning very differently. Admittedly, there were many times in my collegiate years when my chapter, as many probably do, struggled to adhere to the policy.
Alcohol-free housing came at an opportune time for the Georgia Gamma chapter. Just as the policy was coming into place, Mercer University was completing construction on a new Greek Village on campus with beautiful new homes for all campus fraternities and sororities. As Georgia Gamma was moving from its old lodge to the new fraternity house, parties and events with alcohol on chapter property were no longer a focus of the chapter. Although I still felt challenged by the policy, I quickly realized that alcohol-free housing helped keep our new home in great condition (well, as great of condition that college men can keep a house in.)
Since 2006, I have worked as a Fraternity/Sorority Advisor at Florida State University, currently serving as the Associate Director of Greek Life at FSU. All too often I see chapters on my campus struggle with managing the risks associated with alcohol. And as I reflect on my own undergraduate fraternity experience, I am much more appreciative of Phi Delta Theta’s alcohol-free housing policy now than I was then. Like most fraternity chapters, we were never perfect at Georgia Gamma. But alcohol-free housing did something for my chapter that I did not realize until recently; it changed the focus of our chapter house from a place to party to a place to enjoy the society of our brothers.
Sure, we had plenty of parties and social events as a chapter, and today as a Greek advisor I regularly tell my students that I hope they have plenty of responsible fun as a part of their Greek experience. But the reason I have come to respect our Fraternity’s policy on alcohol-free housing is that when I reminisce about my experiences in my chapter house, I don’t remember crazy parties or the smell of beer-soaked carpet. I laugh as I remember hanging out with my brothers and all of the absurd moments (crazy conversations, inappropriate jokes, exploding stuffed Teddy bears, many other stories that, as we say in the South, simply wouldn’t do to tell) that brought me closer to my brothers and my Fraternity. Alcohol-free housing is not about stopping fun or about keeping alcohol completely out of the Phi Delta Theta experience; it is about returning the focus of our fraternity to its founding roots.
I believe that alcohol-free housing has served our great fraternity well over this last decade. Phi Delta Theta was leading the fraternity world in this effort ten years ago, and it continues to lead today. As for Georgia Gamma, alcohol-free housing has helped the chapter keep its house in great condition and a place where brothers and Phikeia are proud to bring friends and family. But most importantly, the Georgia Gamma chapter house continues to be at the center of what I believe to be an unparalleled developmental experience for Mercer men…commitment to The Bond of Phi Delta Theta.
James Hunt’s blog post is part of a series to celebrate Phi Delta Theta’s Brotherhood: Our Substance of Choice campaign, a 10-year celebration of alcohol-free housing. Read the white paper, written by Dr. Edward G. Whipple, Past President of Phi Delta Theta and Vice President for Student Affairs at Bowling Green State University, recapping 10 years of alcohol-free housing.