All Around the Liberal Arts: College and Drinking-Till Death Do 'Em Part

By Zac Farber and Katie Havranek

Wabash CollegeIn a fraternity incident that reads like a macabre version of Animal House, this all men’s Crawfordsville, Ind., institution ordered a fraternity disbanded after one of its pledges, 18-year-old Johnny Smith, died while drinking at a party at another campus fraternity.

The college, the national fraternity office, local police and the Beta Psi Chapter of Delta Tau Delta (Smith’s fraternity) have been investigating the death, according to The Bachelor, Wabash’s student newspaper, but police have yet to file charges.

Since the death, according to The New York Times, Wabash students and officials have been disputing “the fairness of punishing the entire fraternity.”

In disbanding the fraternity, Wabash cited the Gentleman’s Rule, the “only rule governing the conduct of students at Wabash College,” which states that “the student is expected to conduct himself at all times, both on and off the campus, as a gentleman and a responsible citizen.”

The conflict between students and the administration has focused on the Gentleman’s Rule.

Patrick White, the college’s president told the Times that some students see the closing of the frat as “as an attack on the Gentleman’s Rule.”

Inter-Fraternity Council President Jim Leucksaid saw it in similar terms.

“The termination of the Delt’s lease was, in my mind, a very sad and tragic event in Wabash history,” he told The Bachelor. “I think that it was necessary the administration evoke a strong response to the recent tragedy. But I call into question the direction behind it-so many students, faculty, coaches, and alumni seem completely perplexed by the college’s decision.”

But White told The Times that he believed that an intoxicated minor in a fraternity house was a violation of the Gentleman’s Rule.

Students under 21 were allowed to stay at the fraternity’s house for the rest of the academic year, but students of drinking age were asked to move off campus.

Frostburg State University

Jonathon C. Gibralter, the president of this Frostburg, Md., institution received an award from higher-education associations and anti-drinking organizations for tackling student drinking. Frostburg is a notorious drinking school.

“I’m not a vigilante against alcohol,” he told The Chronicle of Higher Education. “I just don’t want a student to die.” The first two alcohol related incidents with Gibralter as president included the assault of a local resident and 86 citations of students for underage drinking. Gibralter considered making the college alcohol-free but rejected the idea because he did not want to punish all students for the mistakes of a few. Instead, he told The Chronicle he hoped to implement new drinking policies in hopes of limiting binge drinking of Frostburg students.

Gibralter’s efforts to curb binge drinking have been somewhat successful-alcohol citations have decreased by nearly 40 percent and local bar owners have yielded to pressure and ended all-you-can-drink specials. However, some Frostburg students said that the president’s initiatives have done little to change their drinking habits and one freshman was admitted into the hospital for alcohol poisoning the day after Gibralter returned from receiving his award. Some students said that though large off-campus parties are more frequently shut down, they drink just as much in smaller venues under the new policy.

The university of a little over 5,000 students is located 100 miles away from the nearest large city-Pittsburgh. With only a small movie theater and few stores, partying is one of the few past times available to students. It is generally seen as a last resort school, if grades and standardized test scores do not qualify students for admission to the University of Maryland at College Park. President Gibralter cited one student as saying, “I came to Frostburg State because I knew it was O.K. to drink here, and if you are going to crack down on that, I’m going to leave.