The State of Frats

By Zach Broeren

Following the COVID year of uncertainty, most institutions on Denison’s campus returned to normal, or at least a predictable version, with one notable exception: Fraternity party spaces. Even though Fraternities were allowed to host parties last year, this year brought major changes as fraternities were barred from hosting parties in their spaces at the beginning of the year. However, the administration shifted to allow fraternities to host parties on Saturdays.

These actions by the administration are only a few in a long line of turning the screws on greeks and party culture. Starting with barring Fraternities from living in their spaces in 1996, the administration has increasingly sought to limit fraternities’ ability to party in their spaces. Left out of this equation is the student population: Do they support fraternities’ ability to party or do they want them further marginalized? In the October 2021 survey, we asked Denison students a variety of questions centering around fraternity parties at Denison. 

Overwhelmingly, Denison students want Fraternities to be able to party on Denison’s campus, both inside and outside. 72.9% of Denison students support fraternities to party both inside and outside, while 16.2% want them to only party outside and 5.3% want them to only party inside. Only 5.6% of Denison students do not want Denison students to party at all in their spaces. However, these blanket statements say little about which groups support the ability to party. Since fraternities are all men, do men support fraternities more than women? 

While men support fraternities’ ability to party inside and outside at a larger rate, a larger percentage of women support fraternities’ ability to party outright. 75.3% of men believe that fraternities should be able to party inside and outside compared to 71.4% of women. Interestingly, 8% of women believed that fraternities should only be able to party inside while 1.9%, a quarter of the percentage of the women, believed the same. This sums to 96.2% of women believing fraternities should be able to host parties in their space to some extent, higher than only 92% of men. 

Whenever we talk about greek life, we are at least implicitly talking about racial differences. In the October 2021 survey, 26.2% of all whites indicated that they belong to some greek life organization, while only 8.4% of non-whites said they belonged to one. Is there a difference in partying attitudes between whites and non-whites?

Whites were much more supportive of frats partying both inside and outside, supporting them at 77.8% versus 53.3% for non-whites. Non-whites differ quite a bit from whites in the inside only category, supporting it at 11.2% versus 2.9%. Ultimately, whites on the whole were more supportive, as 95.7% said frats should be able to party somewhere in their space, compared to 91.6% of non-whites.

Demographics aren’t the only area that may affect attitudes of frats partying; location can also make a difference. I have met quite a few Denison students, especially those who live in Schaff, Morrow, Preston, Kappa Sig, and Beta that have complained about their inability to fall asleep on the weekend due to party noise. All five of these dorms are located on North Quad, where the fraternities would be able to host parties in their spaces. Are Denison students who live on North Quad less supportive of fraternities’ ability to party where they live?

North Quad students are significantly more opposed to fraternities partying in their spaces than the rest of the campus, but the majority of North Quadians still think fraternities should be able to party in a more limited way  –  either inside or outside. Only 59.8% of North Quadians think fraternities should be able to party inside and outside, compared to 78.3% of the rest of campus. North Quadians also want fraternities to party inside, as 10.3% want them to party inside, compared to 3.2% of the rest of campus. This may be because the outdoor parties become larger and louder than parties that may happen indoors, or the noise may be more contained inside. Regardless, 12.9% of North Quadians wanted no fraternity parties compared to only 2.9% of the rest of campus. 

Are Greeks more likely to support fraternities partying? Conventional wisdom would of course say yes, but there may be reasons against. Fraternity members may want to move parties away from their houses to avoid property damage or want to keep parties at senior apartments where access is more controlled. 

The possible scenarios listed above are completely unfounded; Greeks support fraternities’ ability to party much more than the non-greek student population. 86.6% of Greeks and only 69% of the non-greek student population support fraternities to party both inside and outside, while 13.4% of Greeks and 17% of the non-greek student population want fraternities to party only outside. Interestingly, out of 82 greeks who responded to the survey, not a single one answered “Inside” or “Neither”, while 6.8% of the non-greek  population wanted fraternities to party inside and 7.1% didn’t want them to party at all. 

Another important aspect of fraternity parties (and many parties on campus) is alcohol. It is no secret that many people bring alcohol to these events and fraternities have alcohol that may end up in the possession of minors. In the October 2021 survey, we asked respondents a simple question: Should fraternities be allowed to serve alcohol at their parties?

Overall, 78.9% of Denison students think fraternities should be able to serve alcohol at their parties, but there is significant variation depending on their answers of where such parties should be held. Those who want parties both inside and outside and those who want parties inside support fraternities overwhelmingly, while those who do not want parties overwhelmingly do not want fraternities serving alcohol. 89.2% of those who want parties inside and outside and 80% of those who want parties only inside want fraternities to serve alcohol, while only 1 of the 20 who chose neither inside nor outside wanted fraternities to serve alcohol at their parties (4.8%). Those who selected only outside still supported fraternities serving alcohol, but at a much lower rate: 59% want fraternities to serve alcohol. This is an interesting trend, which there are not a lot of great theories for. One possible explanation is that the amount of spaces one believes fraternities should be able to party in correlates with higher trust in fraternities, which then signals trust to them that they can serve alcohol. While the “insiders” may nullify this theory, it should be noted they are a relatively small sample size, only 20 persons in this study.  

Drunk 18 year olds aren’t known for being the most quiet and respectable people in the world, so how do those who live among the fraternities feel about alcohol? 

While those who live on North Quad support fraternities serving alcohol at lower rates, it isn’t as drastic as where they should be allowed to party. 80.8% of Denison students who don’t live on North Quad believe fraternities should be allowed to serve alcohol, compared to 72.4% of North Quadians. This may be because those who live on North Quad are concerned about noise, which is mostly generated via parties, while alcohol will end up on North Quad whether it is served by fraternities or brought by students themselves, not really affecting the quality of life of North Quadians. 

As mentioned earlier, sometimes alcohol at fraternities parties ends up in the possession of minors. Generally speaking, all seniors are of legal age, a decent amount of juniors are, and very few sophomores and freshmen are. Is there a divide along grade lines when it comes to serving alcohol at parties? 

Freshman and seniors are much more supportive of fraternities serving alcohol at parties: 83.2% of freshmen and 82.7% of seniors support fraternities serving alcohol at their parties, while only 75% juniors and 74% of sophomores support fraternities at their parties. Two possible explanations for freshmen is that the novelty of college drinking still exists and they do not have any other way to get alcohol, while for seniors a possible explanation could be the reality that they will no longer be Denison students in 6 months and want to make the most of it. This is not true for juniors and sophomores; the novelty of drinking has worn off, they are 21 or know people who will buy, and there is no sense of the end soon which ultimately leads to lower rates of support. 

The results of the October 2021 survey are very interesting with several things to consider moving forward. While the Denison administration has put certain roadblocks to partying for Fraternities, the majority of the Denison student population has made it clear that they want Fraternities to continue partying both inside and outside. However, there are certain things that must be considered with these results. How do you go about letting the Fraternities party without disturbing the people of North Quad? While they majorly support the frats, there is obviously lower support due to suffering the consequences of being woken up at 2 am by screaming sorority girls outside their windows. It is a complex problem that does not have a straightforward solution. 

Zach Broeren, a Junior at Denison University majoring in Political Science, is now starting to figure out too late he probably should have majored in Data Analytics.

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