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'Dry' Housing Grows Even as Students Protest Alcohol Bans

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Then he arrived at the University of Michigan in fall 1996, Michael Greene wanted to join a fraternity, but worried that an "animal house" drinking culture might hurt his grades.

Then he discovered and joined Phi Delta Theta, the university's only "substance-free" fraternity. "We have the highest fraternity grade-point average and the biggest parties on campus without a drop of alcohol," he boasts. But Phi Delta Theta may not be alone for long.

Seven national fraternities representing nearly 1,000 of the 5,000 or so fraternity chapters in the United States voted to shun alcohol last year.

Phi Delta Theta says 58 of its 120 chapters are alcohol free, and expects the rest to be by 2000.

Many fraternities will debate going dry at their national meetings this summer with several expected to banish booze this fall, officials say.

This small-but-growing shift by fraternities to core traditions of brotherhood and academic achievement reflects one of two seemingly contrary trends.

On the one hand, many students are voting with their feet for more alcohol control by demanding substance-free housing on campus. At the University of Michigan, 2,600 students, or 27 percent of those living on campus, live in substance-free dorms. That's up from 1,900 students in 1989, when the program began. Colleges nationwide are climbing on the bandwagon - as are fraternities.

On the other hand, many other students see their personal happiness so intertwined with alcohol use that they are willing to fight when alcohol use is curtailed. Alcohol arrests on campus were up 10 percent in 1996, the fifth rise in five years, according to a new survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education.


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