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Starting next school year, fraternities at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will no longer be able to have hard alcohol at their events.

The UNL Interfraternity Council made an unanimous decision last month to enact the ban on any drinks of more than 15% alcohol by volume (30 proof), unless provided by a third-party vendor — for instance, a fraternity event at a local restaurant or hotel. The ban will start Aug. 1.

IFC President Justin Henry said the decision was set in motion after the North American Interfraternity Council, which governs many of the UNL frat houses, decided on the same ban last summer.

"However, we have five (out of 23) fraternities that aren't under the NIC," he said. "So what we did made it so all the fraternities are on the same playing field, under the same rules."

The decision was made to improve safety at fraternity events, Henry said. He said more than 90% of alcohol-related trips to a hospital from those events are because of the consumption of hard alcohol.

As a freshman member of Alpha Gamma Sigma, Henry said he saw "outrageous behavior" during parties before Nebraska football games.

"I don't think that you will see that if there's no hard alcohol present," he said. "I think (the ban) eliminates a lot of the risky behavior, if you will, that comes along with that."

There was a previous attempt to ban hard alcohol at fraternity events three years ago, but Henry said it failed within a few weeks, mostly because of a lack of enforcement. He said enforcement will be tougher this time around.

"We will have teeth behind ours in place, enforcement behind it when everyone is under these rules," he said.

Part of that enforcement involves the IFC's judicial board, which was put into place last semester. The board is headed by IFC Vice President Nate Heimann and includes the judicial board chairs of the fraternities. The members are rotated and randomly selected for each case.

Matters concerning the hard alcohol ban will go directly to the board rather than through the university, Henry said.

A first offense will result in a notice to the fraternity's national chapter and an extensive alcohol education program for the chapter. A second offense includes a hefty fine and social probation. Additional offenses, like the first two, will be handled by the judicial board, which will decide how harsh the punishments will be, Henry said.

But some issues may arise from the system, he said. For example, one member might still sneak a flask into a fraternity party, while other cases may involve the fraternity actively providing hard liquor for people to drink.

"So every case is not going to be the same, whatsoever," Henry said. "I guess that's one thing that we are looking to probably have to deal with in the future."

Andrea Harris, president of the Panhellenic Association, said its members are currently in the process of educating sorority chapter presidents on the ban.

"We're having biweekly meetings where we discuss how this is going to go down with everyone and how we're going to try to make sure that people are aware of the new policy and following the rules," she said.

Unlike the IFC, Panhellenic and national sorority chapters do not allow sorority events to have alcohol. Along with the new policy, Harris said sorority recruitment in August will also include education on the fraternities' new rules.

Harris said she hopes to see women be more confident about the decisions they make and the friendships they form as a result of the IFC's decision.

"I think it's just going to make everything safer and people won't have to be as worried about their friends who overconsume alcohol," she said. "And I really think it's going to help the Greek community to be more sustainable for the future."

Henry said fraternities should understand that beer and wine don't have to be the only options to consider for its events. For example, he's seen White Claw Hard Seltzer become a popular option in the past few years.

"There's plenty of other ways that you can go about it," Henry said. "If that happens, then I think that people will find that the parties without hard alcohol are more enjoyable."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7241 or cspilinek@journalstar.com.

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