Living Our Values: Questions and Answers

(Aug. 18, 2010)

What is happening to fraternities and sororities?

Greek life is an important facilitator of social life on campus, and we are strengthening leadership and financial support for Greek organizations by reestablishing the importance of the role of faculty advisor, requiring presidents of groups with campus lounges to live in their residential blocks, and depositing lounge rental payments into a fund for lounge renovations. We are also supporting Greek student leaders’ voluntary adoption of higher GPA eligibility requirements as an alternative to sophomore rush.

Are there special provisions for first-year students?

Recognizing that first-year students are most “at risk,” it is critical that they participate in all Orientation activities. Therefore, first-year students are required to attend all Orientation activities and upper class students should not plan parties or other events that compete with these activities. Later in the year, “Pledge Night” celebrations will occur only on campus on a Friday night.

Why is this a bigger problem than when I was a student?

Today’s conditions are very different than those that prevailed even ten or fifteen years ago. Regulation of drinking, interpretations of social host liability, and increased enforcement by outside agencies have had the unintended consequence of high risk drinking, including “front-loading” (drinking in individual rooms before attending events) and a rising consumption of hard liquor at colleges and universities across the country. Social media often fuel perceptions or “normalize” attitudes involving excessive drinking, hazing and sexual encounters. In the last few years University Police and Residence Life and Housing staff have become increasingly concerned about assaults and aggressive conduct by students who are under the influence.

Why is it better for students to be on campus?

Students report that many underage students “front load” if they party off-campus in order to avoid being cited for underage drinking at these venues. Clearly this conduct endangers students traveling to and partying at off-campus events. Moreover, students are not as protected in these environments as they are on campus where student intervention, proximity to residence halls, university police protection and medical assistance are all conveniently available.

Where can students have events on campus?

The availability of large social spaces on the Reynolda Campus is a significant issue, and one that will take time to fully resolve. Work is currently underway on “the Barn,” a flexible facility for student parties. To make campus events easier, parking lots near the group lounges in the Hearn Plaza residence halls will be closed on weekend nights, tailgating will be permitted at designated soccer games and the nightclub on Deacon Boulevard (“The Last Resort”) will be reopened and made available to student groups with University-provided shuttles.

What resources will be available to student event hosts?

The Division of Student Life is working on a new website, PartySmart, that will allow registration of campus events and provide information on safe party practices. This site will be a continuing resource to help students keep track of regulations and host successful events.

How will the University control behavior by students in Polo Road neighborhoods?

After one incident, disciplinary action, or warning (parents and landlords as well as students will be notified of warnings), disruptive parties in single family neighborhoods that are the subject of Winston-Salem Police intervention will result in the revocation of off-campus housing approval for individual students and other group sanctions, including the loss of a pledge class for a fraternity reasonably perceived as hosting the party.

Who was involved in the new policies?

These occurrences generated considerable concern among faculty, staff, alumni, parents and student leaders about the nature of social life on and off campus. Such concerns led to a study by the Student Life Committee regarding the strength and stability of Greek life. A University Committee on Off-Campus Living composed of students, faculty, and staff was tasked to examine off-campus residential life. The University has now received reports from these committees and begun to evaluate these recommendations as cast against the greater landscape of Wake Forest’s aspirations for its students and the existing student culture.

As the full report was developed, the committees and administrators consulted extensively with the University’s Board of Trustees, the College Board of Visitors, the Parents’ Council, alumni, parents and members of the Winston-Salem community.