Phi Gamma Delta Will Be Alcohol-Free by 2000By Brett Altschul
Last Friday, the national leadership of Phi Gamma Delta announced that the fraternity will be alcohol-free by July 1, 2000.
The decision comes on the heels of the death of Scott S. Krueger '01, a pledge at Fiji's MIT chapter, from alcohol poisoning.
The ruling will ban alcoholic beverages from all of Fiji's 125 chapter houses.
"Alcohol has too much influence on today's college students," said Douglas H. Dittrick, president of Fiji's governing board in a press release announcing the decision.
"Tragically, we have just seen again how imperative it is to combat the culture of alcohol among college students," Dittrick said. "We must take action against it."
Two other major international fraternities have set the same date for their chapter, Phi Delta Theta and Sigma Nu, both of which have chapters at MIT. Both fraternities announced their new policy last March.
Ban proposed some time ago
Fiji said that although the decision was finalized after Krueger's tragic death, the fraternity had been considering this action for some time. This tragedy merely crystallized the decision, said William Martin, a spokesman for Fiji.
Martin said that the plan had been circulated to some chapters for input, and the plan was slowly under consideration. This accelerated the process, he said.
Dittrick said that Fiji couldn't order chapters to become alcohol free immediately, although that would be a desirable goal.
"We can only eliminate alcohol by educating our undergraduate membership, particularly our new pledges" over the next several years, Martin said.
Dittrick said that there was opposition to the proposal from some members and chapters, but the national office's position was firm. "These concerns have not dissuaded the board," he said.
Fiji makes deal with Betty Ford
Fiji's national office has already taken steps to start the transition. The Betty Ford Center, a world-famous drug treatment and counseling center in Rancho Mirage, Ca., has agreed to assist the fraternity.
The Betty Ford Center will help train Fiji alumni to work as advisers and counselors for Fiji undergraduates. The alumni will work to educate the students on the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse.
The fraternity needs a system in place to train people who will, in turn, train the undergraduates how to deal with alcohol, Martin said.
Fiji said that it is also considering offering special incentives for chapters that become alcohol-free immediately. "We hope many chapters will act quickly," Dittrick said.
Fiji has about 6,300 active undergraduate members and over 100,000 alumni. The fraternity is headquartered in Lexington, Ky.
Changes reduce legal costs
As a result of Krueger's death, both the local chapter and national organization of Fiji may face multi-million dollar law suits.
When SN and PDT decided to go alcohol-free, financial costs were cited as a major reason for the change.
"This decision was definitely economically-driven and mainly due to liability issues," said Iddo Gilon '98, president of the Interfraternity Council, when the fraternities made their announcement in March.
At the time, both said they hoped and expected that other major fraternities would follow their lead. So far, Fiji is the only such fraternity to do so.