College is a time where many young adults first discover alcohol and the culture of universities often centers around binge drinking and partying. Socially, most college students are expected to drink heavily with their peers and that is especially the case for those involved in college fraternities. Frat houses are known for their parties and unfortunately their heavy alcohol abuse can sometimes lead to problems.
Tragically, some of the alcohol abuse in college can lead to issues like rape, assault and even death. In 2014 as many as 1800 college students died from drinking related causes. There were also 696,000 assaults perpetrated by drunk students, and close to 100,000 college students who were sexually raped or assaulted in incidents involving alcohol.
Although not all of these events involved fraternities, greek life is most well-known for its culture of heavy drinking. Students involved in fraternities are much more likely to abuse alcohol than their peers often because of social pressure to do so. The general enthusiasm for drinking in frat culture makes it a good target for intervention.
Reasons and Causes of Binge Drinking in Frats
What is it about greek life that leads to serious alcohol abuse? Fraternities tend to be resistant to alcohol education because the tradition of drinking is such a big part of being a frat member. Changing the drinking culture would be a major change that would require a lot of effort and intervention.
One of the reasons that drinking is such a constant aspect of frat life is the fact that it is a community living situation. Group members are around one another every day and experience peer pressure in the house to keep drinking. It becomes difficult for individual members to avoid abusing alcohol when their brothers are encouraging them to drink.
Greek houses also tend to have initiation rituals and some type of hazing activities that center around alcohol in some form. Initiating members can involve asking them to drinking heavily and the pressure to do so in order can be too intense to overcome. There have been cases where hazing has led to alcohol poisoning, accidents and even deaths.
Fraternities and sororities also tend to have a lack of supervision over the activities of the house. There are no resident advisors, older adults overseeing the house or rule enforcers that can keep the drinking level down. The leaders of fraternities are upperclassmen who are still young themselves and often campus officials tend to look the other way on their behavior because of the positive economic impact that greek houses have on the school.
Curbing Drinking in Fraternities
With the long standing traditions, peer pressure, and lack of supervision how can fraternities cut down on binge drinking and alcohol related accidents? In the past frat houses have been resistant to educational efforts attempting to intervene and reduce the alcohol consumption in greek culture. Even lessons from peer-mediated groups have been unsuccessful in convincing fraternities to minimize heavy drinking.
It may be necessary to develop stronger interventions in order to help curb the drinking habits that become problematic in greek houses. The existing interventions mainly focused on high risk scenarios with alcohol education but proved to be ineffective. The interventions did not address issues such as correcting misplaced norms about alcohol culture or trying to have frat members understand their own motives for drinking.
Different types of interventions that allow frat members to analyze their own behavior could possibly prove more effective but more research needs to be done to determine if that is the case. Fraternity members can be especially resistant to alcohol education because they often view alcohol use as a way to achieve their social and sexual goals. Certain intervention tactics, however, proved more effective than others such as challenging students’ social expectations when drinking which led to reduced drinking habits.
The culture of fraternities is so closely linked to alcohol that it will take some more carefully designed and administered interventions to combat the problem. Frat members are often motivated by the social aspects of drinking and the feeling that they are bonding with their brothers by drinking heavily. They might also believe that drinking makes them more fun or likeable to their peers.
Over time it could be possible to work toward cutting down on drinking in fraternities in order to keep campuses more safe and healthy for students. However, it would require challenging student beliefs and traditions, asking them to consider the reasons for their behavior and the potential consequences. Focusing interventions on greek houses could help reduce the overall binge drinking behavior throughout college campuses.
Although college students are expected to drink heavily, more actions could be taken to prevent the kind of alcohol related issues that endanger the health and lives of students.