New IFC policy requires event registration

Parties, socials or “functions”, as they are normally called, are a weekly occurrence in OSU Greek life. These events are held by students in their homes, co-ops and Greek houses as a way to connect with others, get away from school, and to celebrate the weekend. In many cases, these parties go off without a hitch, besides the occasional noise complaint, and don’t necessarily end on bad terms.

What many don’t realize is the danger that comes along with the events they attend, as they have had little to no standard to adhere to by their governing bodies: until now.

A new social policy passed by the Interfraternity Council at Oregon State University has made it so fraternities are required to register all of their social events through IFC and the Corvallis Fire Department.

Recently, IFC passed a social policy that, starting the weekend of April 22, requires fraternities to inform IFC of any and all events happening on any chapters’ property.

“It’s mainly a means of chapters registering their socials with IFC, so that we can at least know they are happening,” said IFC President Alec Petersen, a supporter of the new social policy. “Having the policy allows us to hold chapters accountable if something goes wrong, or if they aren’t using best practices for hosting an event.”

Petersen said that in the recent past there has not been a policy that held chapters accountable for their event hosting, and that this new legislation was a way for IFC to take that matter into their own hands. The policy also requires houses to register their events through CFD.

”We’re not party crashers,” said the CFD Fire Marshal Jim Patton. “We’re not trying to prevent parties, we’re coming out and helping the houses to be empowered to conduct a safe party.”

Although Patton may be seen by event-organizers as a “roadblock” to having a social function, he said his motivation lies in keeping students and party-goers safe at the parties they choose to attend.

“Again, we’re not saying no. We’re saying, ’This is how you do it’,” Patton stated. He wants students to be safe and said that his job is “all about how to make it happen, and make it happen safely.”

According to Patton, in the past, party-planners may have avoided registering functions because they did not want to draw attention to the event, or they thought it required a lot of legwork to complete the registration. However, Patton showed that the actual process of registering an event is much less daunting than people may have thought.

“It takes no more than five minutes to electronically register [the] event,” Patton said. He continued to explain that after registering, he would respond to the registration and set a time to do a pre-event check where he would inspect the event area for hazards of any kind.

While this policy does specifically pertain to IFC chapters, Patton explained that there can be up to $1,900 in fines for misusing property without registering the event with the CFD.

In an attempt to educate the hosts, Patton said he provides them with handouts that outline the rules and regulations regarding their event to clearly state what is expected of them. He then checks all fire extinguishers, alarms, lights and paths to be sure that during the function, people could easily evacuate or handle any situation that may befall them.

Patton’s final step in making sure that a party will be safe is checking on the party during its registered time. These take no longer than three minutes and are just to be sure that houses are not exceeding their capacity and that the safety precautions had not changed since the pre-event inspection.

According to Petersen, the act of registering social functions goes beyond just physical safety.

“If there is a theme that is culturally appropriating or something that is offensive or unacceptable to our (IFC) standards, then we can stop that problem before it actually begins and have a conversation with the chapter,” Petersen said.

Petersen explained that while physical safety is the number one concern, chapters can also get into hot water when themes overstep their cultural boundaries.

According to both Petersen and Patton, one of the main positives to having this new social policy is the ability for specific houses to have limited liability when confronted with any incident while their event is taking place.

Patton stated that the process is designed “to prevent liability, injury, fire, or worse.”

“We would hope that folks would appreciate [what we do] if they’re wanting to conduct a safe event,” Patton said. Although he is usually perceived as the “bad guy”, Patton’s first priority is safety for the Corvallis Community, and in this case, bolstering practices that allow for people to have fun in a safe and reasonable manner.

According to Petersen, the new policy urges fraternities to create guest lists and have sober people at the event to deal with any and all problems, before third-parties need to get involved.

By having tabs on all who are attending the event through a guest list, having sober party monitors present and alerting both IFC and the CFD of the event, this policy is creating a much safer environment for students and guests to enjoy themselves at functions, according to Petersen.

Petersen said that only one chapter in all of IFC was opposed to the new policy, and that many chapters were more than willing to comply.

“It hasn’t changed anything for us” said Janak Ward, the Risk Manager for an IFC chapter on campus. “We always register our parties, hire security, and generally get along well with the Fire Marshal. It just adds one more thing to get checked off before we party, but we don’t really mind.”

According to Patton, this attitude is exactly the approach that the CFD hopes other chapters adopt. Making this a part of their normal routine will continue to keep Corvallis a safe place for students and community members to enjoy themselves, while keeping safety at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

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