George Mason Law School

Students respond to pong ban

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September 10, 2010

12:31 AM

Recently approved changes to the College of William and Mary’s policy on drinking games have prompted negative reactions from several student groups.

The prohibition of beer pong tables has been of particular concern to the College’s Greek community.

“It has a lot of fraternity leaders on campus offended,” Kappa Delta Rho President Imad Matini ’11 said.

The decision to ban the items, which are predominantly used for drinking games, came as a result of the 2009-2010 Fraternity and Sorority Coalition Assessment Project review of the school’s Greek life system.

Drinking games were already banned by the College, and CAP advised that related paraphernalia be prohibited as well to convey a consistent message.

The policy change was explained to Resident Assistants during their orientation sessions in August. RAs were taught how to recognize tables that would serve primarily as surfaces for drinking game.

“If they’re painted with triangles, if there are circles for the cups, you’re not supposed to have them because it’s drinking paraphernalia,” Landrum Hall RA Chelsea Marotta ’12 said. “If it’s clear that it’s being used for beer pong, we’re supposed to tell them they have to get rid of it.”

While the policy applies to everyone, Matini said that fraternity members feel particularly targeted.

“We feel very antagonized and victimized,” he said. “It’s hurting a lot of my senior class — it’s isolating them a lot. They are up in arms about this.”

According to Matini, pong tables represent more than just surfaces for drinking games — they serve as symbols of a bond. Each class of men buys supplies to build their own table, and lays out its design.

“Brothers come together and work on them,” he said. “Alumni come back and say, ‘this is what we built together.’ [The ruling] is hurting our freedom of expression to build something.”

According to Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler ’88 Ph.D. ’06, last weekend was the deadline given to fraternities to remove beer pong tables from their housing units. Some chapters have asked to mount their tables on the walls instead, and are working with Residence Life and Facilities Management to accomplish that.

Matini said he understood the College’s concern regarding the role drinking games play in underage drinking, although he does not think that banning beer pong tables will alleviate the problem. Rather, he predicted, it will push drinking games off campus.

“It’s hypocrisy to say we don’t promote underage drinking, and yet have pong tables,” he said. “We’re not just worried about our enjoyment. We’re thinking about the campus community, too. There is the question about, ‘How is this going to curtail the problem of abusing alcohol?’ People are going to go off campus, they will have to cross streets, there could be drunk driving.”

According to Matini, one source of his fraternity brothers’ frustration is that they said they feel the administration did not thoroughly discuss the issue with them prior to imposing the ban. Some members of the Student Assembly felt similarly about the rest of the Student Handbook changes, since the revisions were sent out to students for review during the summer. On Tuesday, Aug. 31, the Senate unanimously passed a bill requesting that future alterations to the handbook be presented to the student body during the school year.

Ambler said in an e-mail that the handbook review process usually occurs annually during the spring semester, but the timeline was pushed back this past school year because the Office of Student Affairs needed to undertake a full revision. She noted that she received significantly higher numbers of student responses to handbook changes last summer than she had during the previous two spring semesters.

While the beer pong table ban has already been written into the new Student Handbook, a proposed change to the standard of evidence the College uses in disciplinary cases has been put on hold until there is an opportunity to solicit more student input.

“I think it’s good to have a campus-wide discussion on it,” Sen. Mike Young ’11 said. “I’m very happy the administration decided at least to do that.”

Ambler said she is looking forward to a town hall meeting or panel discussion on the issue, and is open to suggestions for how to increase student feedback on future handbook revisions.

_Editor’s note: One or more comments were deleted for being deemed obscene, frivolous or off topic._

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