It’s been all over the news for the past few days that two Brown University fraternities have been sanctioned as a result of instances of sexual assault that took place on their premises. (One, Pi Kappa Psi, is the same frat where a female student tested positive for GHB after being drugged at an unregistered party in October.) The less publicized and more widespread disciplinary action, however, affects all students outside of Greek life: Brown has banned any residential events serving alcohol, whether in frats, special program houses, or regular dorms. Brown’s reply, from anonymous comments to an official editorial board response, has been one of skepticism and dissatisfaction.
The Prohibition-like enforcement has a few loopholes: student groups can still host events that serve alcohol to students over 21, but only in public campus party spaces and under University supervision. As one disgruntled commenter observes, “no place to rage quite like the Kasper Multipurpose Room.” In the email sent out to the community on Monday, administration also announced another review this semester that would judge Brown’s “alcohol policy…to promote a safer environment on campus.” The proximity of this announcement with the frats’ extreme punishments also carries another implied message: future violations of the more general alcohol ban could result in similarly harsh sanctions.
This new rule, combined with the temporary suspension of Phi Kappa Psi and Sigma Chi from campus life, will force social events out onto the fringes of campus – a change that some students feel will only further add to safety concerns. Student comments on the Brown Daily Herald article largely condemn the administration’s actions, and speculate about the effectiveness that these new measures will have in reducing cases of sexual assault. An op-ed posted yesterday in the same newspaper pointed out that most parties in which sexual assault may occur are unofficial, and thus not targeted by the new regulations; the author goes on to state that attempts to curtail student drinking “would neglect the real problem and unfairly penalize the entire student body.” And the Herald‘s editorial board published a statement that, while generally approving of the ban, echoed similar concerns that the new environment will drive drinking underground and into the larger city, outside of University protection.
While we can safely ignore some of the more trollish online comments, these responses raise some doubt about how Brown students will find their way around these new regulations – and how the new rules will change sexual assault on campus, whether intentionally or unintentionally.