I once faced the exact same challenge that currently faces college students who are returning to campus right now. “You can have X if you avoid partying.” In today’s case, X is a return to normalcy. We had the same exact situation when I was in school 17 years ago.

Well, here’s how it went:

Where I went to school, students rushed/joined Greek life as freshmen and moved into the Greek houses as sophomores. At my house, a series of incidents before my class resulted in our house being declared “dry” right as my class moved in in 2003. No alcohol allowed. Punishment…because of prior offenses by people we didn’t know.

So What Happened? 

We discussed it at meetings and our bigger parties changed a little. But largely, we made some jokes and still had all the fun we wanted. Welcome Week 2003 I’m certain our house had the best opening-night party. I have a bunch of pictures.

We largely scoffed at the dry rule and it made us have even more fun. Think speakeasies during Prohibition. Defeating the rule made it even more worthwhile, in our eyes.

After that first Fall 2003 semester, in January 2004, our national office overseers sat us down and cut us a deal. They knew we didn’t listen to their rules during the fall. But if we behaved for one semester…no parties or drinks in the house for the next 4 months…they would advocate for us to be “wet” again in the fall of 2004. Essentially, no parties second semester sophomore year, and resume normalcy during your junior year.

That seemed like a fair deal to me, and we all agreed. Let’s behave now and make that sacrifice now for future gains. We took this deal back to the house and everyone agreed on it. For future normalcy.

How do you think that went? Well, people with drinks acted strangely around me and I poured beer into the urinals several times. I was committed to uphold our deal to achieve that future normalcy. But it was all for naught. Parties, pot and other drunken fraternity rituals shut us down to an even worse fate.

Complete shutdown.

Personally, I held up my end of the bargain. And I got nothing (actually less than nothing) in return.

That summer, I realized I only get one shot at this college thing. One chance and it’s over. And it made sense to get the most out of that experience: academically, mentally and socially. It didn’t make sense to me to sacrifice that third pillar of the once-in-a-lifetime experience just to watch others do what they want and we end up losing in the end.

After that failed experiment, we went back to doing what we wanted. More trouble followed. Mass exodus, more pain – including for me. Today, that fraternity to which I belonged…is shut down. Not enough people kept our 2004 social distance – but was it a realistic ask of us?

Returning To Campus Today

From this sour fraternity experience, I can relate exactly to what college students on campus are facing now. Kids aged 18-21 for the most part are faced with the proposition of a return to normalcy in the future. How many people that age can honestly be expected to think ahead like that? How many would make that sacrifice for only a “maybe kinda sorta” promise ahead?

Many students do see the upside and return to normalcy ahead. Particularly older ones with the most on the line. Many students are following guidelines (most of the time) and have good intentions. It will no doubt be an uphill battle at many places, with that pesky virus serving as Dean Wormer or a pesky housedad. Many schools have already seen Germany bomb Pearl Harbor.

Will enough students make the choices to save the house? Those my age didn’t. And the generation before, not so much either. Nobody in college has ever turned down a good toga party.



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