Fraternities and sororities decrease arrest and citation rates

UI Greek men and women successfully reduce arrest and citation rates at UI

Story by Caitlin Scott

Fraternity and sorority life is often associated with dangerous drinking on campuses across the country, but University of Iowa chapters boast a much different reputation.

According to arrest and citation data from Fall of 2012, UI Greek women have successfully reduced their arrest and citation rates to just 70% of the all-female undergraduate rate at UI. Greek men have successfully decreased their arrest and citation rate as well and are currently no more likely to be arrested or cited than non-Greek undergraduate men.

Members of UI Fraternity and Sorority Life are changing their drinking culture with the help of a new policy that they helped design. In addition to chapter leaders, the new Arrest and Citation Policy was created by a group of UI staff and faculty including: Dr. Tom Rocklin, Vice President for Student Life; David Grady, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students and Fraternity and Sorority Life staff and students.

The Arrest and Citation Policy is not only interesting for its collaborative nature — the policy is unique to the UI and the first of its kind, according to Dr. Rocklin.

“I don’t know of any other schools that have done [this type of policy]. I doubt that other schools have collected the arrest and citation data for the last 20 years,” Dr. Rocklin said.

The Arrest and Citation Policy is made up of a series of sanctions and rewards. During each academic semester, fraternities and sororities are required to maintain an arrest and citation rate that is at or below the rate for undergraduate UI students of the same gender. Chapters are rewarded for compliance with the policy. Likewise, chapters face a tiered system of sanctions for noncompliance.

If chapters meet arrest and citation rate goals, they are recognized each semester with three rewards. The Vice President for Student Life writes a letter to the chapter’s national (or international) headquarters highlighting the chapter’s success and the chapter becomes eligible to request permission to hold an event at which alcohol is served in a university building. Additionally, members of Interfraternity Council chapters will be released from their University Housing & Dining contracts so that they are able to move into the chapter house. Greek leaders and Dr. Rocklin are currently working on adding additional positive incentives for low arrest and citation rates to the policy.

Chapters face a tiered system of sanctions for noncompliance. Sanctions generally regulate Greek socials and the sanctions become more severe the longer a chapter’s arrest and citation rate is higher than the undergraduate rate. Chapters might need to host a certain number of events that are non-alcoholic in order to host an alcoholic event. Chapters may also lose the ability to host date parties and formals. Tier Three sanctions exclude a non-compliant chapter from Greek homecoming activities. If a chapter is sanctioned at the Tier Four level they are required to appear at a “show cause” hearing to explain why their relationship with UI should not end.

The Division of Student Life collects new data each semester, a process they started in Fall of 2011 when the policy first went into effect. The history of the policy dates back to the 2009-2010 school year when a task force observed a higher level of alcohol-related incidents in the UI Greek community than in the non-Greek undergraduate population. Suggestions from the task force paved the way for the current Arrest and Citation Policy. According to Vice President Tom Rocklin, collecting fresh data is a crucial part of the policy.

“[Arrest and citation data] is really key to making this work because what we are trying to do is reduce harm from alcohol. Arrests and citations are a good measure alcohol use because there are almost all related to alcohol,” Vice President Tom Rocklin said. “But if you don’t have good data, you can’t tell whether you are making any progress.”

The policy uses the arrest and citation ratio of the Greek community as compared to undergraduate students of the same gender to set goals for fraternities and sororities. This ratio helps to ensure that the policy is fair and consistent, explained Vice President Tom Rocklin. For example, an increase in law enforcement could skew the Greek life arrest and citation rate from one semester to the next, but the arrest and citation rate for each group should theoretically increase by the same amount.

“We are proud our chapters have been able to tackle this important issue in our community because it is a challenge and something that chapters really do struggle with,” Leslie Schacht, Coordinator for Fraternity and Sorority Life at the UI, said. “It’s a huge celebration for us.”

UI fraternity men arrest and citation rates have also decreased dramatically since Spring 2011, when Greek men were twice as likely to receive a ticket or citation as undergraduate men. According to Fall 2012 arrest and citation data, UI fraternity men are no more likely to be arrested or cited than non-Greek undergraduate men.

“We are back on par with the all-male and all-female undergraduate rates for arrest citations, which is definitely something that our community takes pride in,” Brad Bleeker, President of the UI Interfraternity Council, said. “We can tell people outside of the Greek community that we went from being twice as likely to get a ticket to right now–we are no more likely to be arrested or cited than anyone else.”

Although members of the fraternity and sorority community are excited about the progress, the policy was not exactly popular at first.

“It met a lot of resistance, but our members were actually a part of the community that helped suggest ideas for this plan,” Bleeker said. “That helped ease the task of bringing the policy back to our chapters.”

Kelly Bender, UI Harm Reduction Initiatives Coordinator, acknowledges that the policy was unpopular at first. However, she insists that a lack of popularity does not signify that a policy is a bad one.

“We can’t be afraid to do things just because they might be faced with a little bit of resistance initially. Sometimes, that resistance is an indication that this might be a direction to go in in fact.” Bender said.

According to Dr. Rocklin, the original opposition was to be expected.

“I think that it would be impossible to introduce this without a lot of resistance — you’re asking people to change in fairly significant way. Members of the community felt like they were being singled out and in some ways they were, but for a good reason,” Rocklin said.

It’s interesting to note that in addition to obvious benefits like increasing alcohol safety and avoiding legal complications, chapters have experienced an added benefit as a result of this policy: the fraternity and sorority membership rate has gone up since the decrease in arrests and citations.

“People want to be members of the community for all of the right reasons, it’s not the partying that’s bringing them in,” Vice President Tom Rocklin said.

UI Fraternity and Sorority Life currently celebrating their success and are excited about shedding a reputation that doesn’t accurately describe them.

“The decrease [in arrests and citations] says that our chapters are living in congruence with their values. It’s great to be able to say that we really are consistent and that we hold our members to a higher standard” Schacht said. “That is not something that student organizations can say, so I think that’s huge.”

“The most important message is that this is something the students did. The students were the majority of the task force. It was in their report. We didn’t change anyone’s behavior; the students did that. We just made clear what our expectations were,” Dr. Rocklin said.