UVA’s fraternities again made national news this week when University President Teresa Sullivan announced the reinstatement of the school’s Phi Kappa Psi chapter, which voluntarily ended its relationship with the University in November after an explosive and now largely discredited Rolling Stone story alleged a woman was gang raped there in 2012. The rest of UVA’s Greeks were also shut down on November 22. But according to Sullivan, Charlottesville police have indicated an investigation “has not revealed any substantive basis” to confirm a rape happened at Phi Psi, and earlier this month, the frat became the first to be welcomed back into an official relationship with UVA by signing a newly expanded Fraternal Order Agreement, or FOA.
The rest of the University’s fraternities and sororities are expected to follow suit and agree to the new rules, which were drawn up over the last month, but the impacts of the addenda aren’t yet clear.
The rule changes were written by members of UVA’s Greek organizations after “a process of discussion and engagement with a variety of stakeholders,” Sullivan said in a January 6 statement announcing the FOAs and reinstating fraternities.
The addendum for sororities—which, thanks to national organization rules, don’t host house parties—mandate the creation of safety guidelines and bystander awareness training, and set a timeline for doing so. The additional rules for fraternities are more extensive, and specifically regulate parties, which are, according to a preamble to the fraternities’ addendum, “a miniscule part of members’ experiences in their chapters,” but “serve as a social outlet for many in the larger student community.”
Changes include requiring at least three “sober brother monitors” at all fraternity functions, one of whom has key access to all rooms in the house. Parties must be registered in advance, and fraternities are required to submit formal risk management plans to the Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC). Drinks are limited to canned beer and wine poured by sober brothers; unmixed liquor is allowed, but at parties where the number of guests exceeds the number of brothers, called “Tier I events,” it can only be served by a licensed ABC vendor.
The most significant change: A guest list will be required for all parties, and an IFC-approved security agent with that list must manage the door at Tier I events.
Most fraternities’ own nationally dictated rules already cover much of what the new addendum addresses. Risk management policies widely adopted by UVA’s IFC fraternities, for instance, ban kegs, liquor and open parties, and also expressly prohibit serving alcohol to underage students—a notable omission from the new UVA rules. But a weekend visit to Rugby Road during the semester will confirm what many undergrads will readily tell you: Those policies are regularly violated, and oversight from national Greek organizations is basically nonexistent.
Enshrining rules to curb binge drinking and keep out crowds of roaming first-years in the FOA is a big shift. J. Marshall Pattie, UVA’s associate dean in charge of fraternity and sorority life, said Greeks at the University take their agreement with the school seriously. Technically, they could operate without the FOA, he said; signing the document is required if groups want to use University facilities and servers, but social clubs can exist independently.
Still, fraternities and sororities at UVA value that formal link, said Pattie. “Being part of an organization that has that relationship with the University and access to those resources is something that leads to a positive perception for prospective members as well as alumni,” he said.
What’s not clear is how the new FOA rules will be enforced. Pattie would only say that allegations of rule violations would prompt a review that would involve student leaders. IFC President Tommy Reid did not respond to requests for comment on the new rules.
Members of UVA’s Greek community said they were skeptical the rule changes would significantly alter the party culture at the University.
In theory, the new regulations sound positive, said fourth-year sorority member Charlotte Cruze, and people are open to change right now.
“I think we came so close last semester to losing what we’d all become so accustomed to at UVA,” she said. “Nobody wants Greek life to go away.”
But making the rules stick is another thing altogether. “It’s going to be a challenge to make sure people take it seriously,” she said. “If something happens at your party and they find out you weren’t enforcing one of the rules, what’s going to happen?”
“It’ll be in the back of people’s minds,” said fraternity member Ben Camber. But he doubts the student body will voluntarily quit going to fraternity parties if they spot rule violations, and that raises questions about who is actually responsible for change.
“The school will have a hard time enforcing it,” he said.—With reporting by Sam Caravana