Penn Tries To Solve Alcohol Problems

The party scene at the so-called "social Ivy" faces a future as murky as a Kahlua mudslide-now hard to find at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn).

Since March 25 the Penn administration has cracked down on alcohol, banning it at all registered undergraduate events for an indefinite period of time.

The university enforced the ban in response to a recent alcohol-related death on campus, hoping to avert similar tragedies in the future through stricter alcohol controls.

Penn administrators announced the ban four days after Michael Tobin fell to his death on an outside stairwell at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity after drinking heavily at a party there. Tobin, who graduated in 1994, was a member of that fraternity.

Students said that although they recognize alcohol abuse can lead to such tragedies, and Penn's previous alcohol policy could have used improvement, Penn said the current ban is a knee-jerk response to the Tobin's death.


"I fail to see the connection between a tragic death of an alumnus and underage undergraduate drinking," said Mark D. Metzl, president of the Inter Fraternity Council (IFC) and a member of the Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity.

The policy change, announced by Penn President Judith Rodin and Provost Robert L. Barchi in an open letter published in The Daily Pennsylvanian (DP), the student daily newspaper, provoked widespread protest.

"Even as we mourn the loss of alumnus Michael Tobin, a 1994 graduate of the College, we must take action to prevent another such tragedy," Barchi and Rodin wrote in the March 25 letter.

But the student body-which is 30 percent Greek-is searching for an alternative solution to the all-out ban, a solution that will allow the Penn social scene to thrive.

Going Dry

Metzl, a junior, said the IFC met after Tobin's death and decided to observe a freeze on parties that had been scheduled for the following weekend,instead holding a vigil on Friday night.

Although news of the policy change came out thenight before the vigil, Metzl said students'dissatisfaction with the administration did notovershadow the memorial event.

"The intent was clear: to show support for the[Phi Gamma Delta] brothers' loss. The atmospherewas very solemn," Metzl said. "They held theirfrustration [with the ban] for another time."

Although most students acknowledge the need forstricter controls on drinking at Penn, somestudents expressed their anger at the policy'sseverity at a protest held on March 30.

Penn's policy prohibits students hostingregistered on- or off-campus undergraduateparties--which includes fraternity, sorority andsenior class events--from serving alcohol.