It’s been a long week packed with exams, papers and lots of late night pizza runs, and the newfound stress of college has many freshmen bursting at the seams. It’s finally Thursday night–time to let loose. Whether they put on the heels and call a cab or lace up the sneakers and make the walk, they find themselves not hitting up the pubs, but down on Greek Row. For the under-aged students at MSU, the bar is not an option for a weekend release, but the fraternity houses most certainly are.

As a freshman whose knowledge is limited to the media-produced “college experience,” where is the one place you can have a good time and stumble into new people? The answer: fraternities.

“There are those groups on campus that know other people and go to house parties, but for the freshmen that are new on campus, all they know are the big name frats,” freshman Jimmy Karr said. While most upperclassmen have connections off campus, the newbies have yet to gain the luxury of friends with apartments.

By the end of the first school week, freshmen can identify the top frats on campus, whether through the grapevine or first-hand experience. Like a twenty-one year old can rate a bar based on alcoholic enjoyment, minors at MSU quickly discover which frats provide the best booze, people, and entertainment.

Those involved in the Greek system, however, recognize no hierarchy among the houses. Kevin Blake, a member of Phi Kappa Psi, said that “each one is tailored to different personalities or goals,” denying the ability to compare and rank multiple houses. Similarly, each frat party offers something different, from drinking games to big dance floors to themed parties. The merit of the party depends on the personality of the party-goer.

The fraternities on campus take a variety of approaches to throwing a good party. For those interested in a bit of friendly competition, Alpha Gamma Rho’s alcohol-a-ton is the prime occasion to show off one’s drinking abilities. The task covers all its bases, requiring the competitor to down two shots of Popov Vodka, followed instantly by a cup of wine and topped off with a cup of beer. However, if an alcohol-induced coma is not your cup of tea, Alpha Epsilon Pi’s roomy dance floor offers plenty of space to bust a move.

Apart from the party scene, the Greek system at Michigan State University has a long-standing tradition of brotherhood and philanthropy. However, the extremely negative stereotype that stems from their involved social agenda is difficult to overlook. Rumors of packed parties, dirty drinks, and drunken brawls are enough to give greek life a bad rap. One definition on the popular slang terminology site describes frat parties as “A sausage fest with douche bag frat boys who let a lot of girls in and hardly any guys so they can slip date rape drugs into the girl’s drink and have sex with them because obviously they can’t rely on their charm.”

Although “some find this definition incredibly accurate,” said senior Lauren Jones, it is often grossly over-applied. When asked about his fraternity experiences, freshman Matthew Kuhn said, “ I’ve heard a lot of bad things, but I’ve never seen anything.” The hazards of the fraternity houses often arise from speculation and rumor. The expectation for the houses to be dirty and full hormonal college boys only encourages a stereotype that does not hold true in all cases.

Furthermore, a fraternity’s reputation can be easily soiled by an unfortunate occurrence, making the members more cautious about social events. Phi Kappa Psi member Kevin Blake points out that “[parties] are a lot of work and responsibility, “ and “if something bad happens, it can be pinned on the house.” Although seemingly light-hearted, parties are not taken lightly by their hosts. Fraternities go to great lengths to throw a responsible party by designating sober monitors, keeping the alcohol separated from the rest of the party and surveying those who enter the house, said Kuhn, Karr and Blake.

Despite the cautions taken by houses to ensure a fun-but-safe time, certain party dangers are unavoidable. Kuhn recounted a friend’s fraternity experience involving dirty jello shots that would “mess you up.” At any party, pre-mixed drinks, punch bowls and jello shots are the easiest beverages to tamper with, and one should always watch their own drink at all times. At the University of Michigan, several students reported memory loss after spending an evening partying at a fraternity; some feared that they had been slipped the common date-rape drug Rohypnol commonly called “ruffies.” This is one of the hazards facing regular party-goers.

In addition to risky drinks, fraternity parties are a constant stop for a patrol unit, and a MIP can put a damper on your semester. Captian Kim Johnson of the East Lansing Police Department said that police tend to be a bit more leery about who’s drinking at private parties since they’re harder to control. At the average party stop, Johnson said that police can pick out guests who look under twenty-one and “the people who start dropping cups and running often draw some attention.”

According to the website for Michigan Legislature, a first offense is a misdemeanor worthy of a $100 fine and possible community service; a second offense can lead to jail time and/or a $200 fine. With a pile of bills for tuition, housing, and books, a lofty fine is the last thing a college-aged student needs.

Considering the popularity of fraternities among freshmen on campus, it appears that houses do not discourage under-aged drinking. Still, most fraternities post white sheets of paper near the entrance to the house stating, “Must be 21 or older to drink.” However, this eight by eleven sheet of paper can serve more as a front for police than a rule of the house.

Also, a fraternity house should not be mistaken for a fountain of free-flowing alcohol. Most frat parties are “bring your own beer,” or some require a $5 charge per cup. In order for minors to obtain alcohol, they often need to know a member of the fraternity or have a buyer who is twenty-one or older. However on a college campus, this is only a small obstacle.

At the end of the night, most minors on a college campus with the desire to drink will find a way. Fraternities have simply become one of the more accessible options for college freshmen, despite the potential dangers facing those who participate. So for those of you looking to spice up the first year of college, a fraternity will give you the bang for you buck and a kick to your cup. However, in order to avoid the dangerous mix of alcohol, the bathroom and eventually the floor, be smart and play it safe.

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