Poly shouldn’t go too far in party rules

An entrance to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.
An entrance to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

We strongly support Cal Poly’s efforts to rein in out-of-control drinking at parties hosted by fraternities and sororities — an effort spurred by several past incidents, including the 2008 alcohol poisoning death of fraternity pledge Carson Starkey.

It makes sense to require fraternities and sororities to preregister any large gatherings where liquor is to be served, and to agree to basic safety and security precautions that any responsible party host would follow, such as ensuring that guests don’t get behind a wheel after a night of drinking. We also support requiring the “carding” of attendees, coupled with some method of identifying guests who are of legal drinking age, such as issuing wristbands.

Yet the Cal Poly administration isn’t stopping there. According to Tuesday’s front-page article by Tribune reporter Nick Wilson, the university also is considering several other regulations, such as limiting the size and duration of parties; banning hard liquor and kegs; and requiring that guest lists be submitted in advance.

Greek leaders declined to sign off on the new rules, and consequently missed a deadline for adopting a new party policy. That landed fraternities and sororities on social probation, which means they can’t host parties or serve alcohol at any gatherings until a policy is in place.

We support holding Greek organizations to a high standard, but we’re concerned that some of these party rules are unenforceable and excessive.

Requiring a guest list 24 hours in advance, for instance, is asking way too much. Anyone who’s ever hosted a party knows that guest lists are subject to last-minute changes, unless, perhaps, we’re talking an intimate dinner party for eight. And even then, you might have an eleventh-hour cancellation or addition. We can’t imagine trying to submit an accurate guest list for a group of 200 — which, by the way, is proposed as the maximum size for a Greek party.

And what’s going to happen after the guest list is submitted? Would someone be required to stand at the door with an attendance sheet, making sure only pre-invited guests are admitted?

As for some of the other suggested restrictions — such as a proposed four-hour limit on drinking parties and a ban on drinking games — who would enforce those? Would the administration send monitors to all Greek parties? Would enforcement be complaint driven, or would the university rely on the honor system?

Again, we commend the university for attempting to put guidelines in place to keep students safe — something we called for following the death of Carson Starkey. But a laundry list of rules is meaningless without a clear plan for monitoring and enforcement. And some of these rules would be nearly impossible to enforce.

What’s more, what’s the practical purpose of requiring, say, a guest list prior to a party? Is the university planning to run a background check on the guests?

Negotiations imply there’s an attempt by both parties to reach a middle ground. In this case, we don’t believe that the university and the Greek organizations have found that yet. We urge them to keep at it until they do.