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Concerns over hazing, alcohol use lead to changes for KU fraternities

LAWRENCE, Mo. -- In wake of hazing incidents, new rules are coming to thousands of fraternities nationwide, including at KU.

Hard alcohol will be off limits by 2019, under new rules approved by the North American Interfraternity Council, which represents 800 colleges. At KU in Lawrence, that restriction and other new rules are already starting to take effect.

On a rainy day, students at the University of Kansas in Lawrence were shuffling to classes with flip flops and umbrellas.

But as the weekend hits, celebrations here will look a little different as new rules on drinking at campus fraternities begin.

"I just think it’ll help all around being safe with alcohol and any other things that can happen in a fraternity," KU student and sorority member Carly Hoyber said.

Since spring, at least three Greek organizations at KU have received suspensions from their national headquarters for investigations into health and safety violations. Another received a warning. Sigma Alpha Epsilon is shut down for at least four years.

Many other frats are on probation for alcohol, drug, and hazing violations.

All of that led to a brief temporary freeze on all Greek social activities earlier this year and sparked discussion on making the organizations safer.

"I think, as a whole, the culture around drinking needs to be looked at. And I think there’s no way we can continue at the rate we’re at, and I think that’s for all students, not just for Greek students," said Conor Lange, KU student and fraternity pledge.

Starting this fall, Greek organizations are getting training on sexual assault, drug and alcohol abuse.

"Just making sure everyone knows how to stay safe, how to help their friends. Even if it’s a bad situation, if you’re scared to call, you should still call and things like that. It’s just good to learn about that," KU student and sorority member Emma Renwick said.

KU is also working to create an advisory board with Greek alumni, current students and university staff to help concerns get addressed.

Hard alcohol is now off limits, along with limits on the number of guests at parties and events.

"I think it would help a lot and just make sure things don’t get too out of hand," Renwick said.

What remains less clear is how KU plans to enforce the new rules and the penalties for breaking them.

But students are encouraged to see the college and campus interfraternity council, taking serious steps to address the issues.

"I think if it helps with the students and safety of everyone, that's the most important thing," Lange said.

Some of those new rules are already taking effect. Others will be rolled out over time. There are 47 different fraternal organizations at KU with 4,000 students participating.