Fraternities at LSU may be experiencing whiplash after the university’s latest revision of tailgating guidelines upended Greek pre-game parties for the second time this football season.
For the Tigers' home game against Ole Miss two weeks ago, their tailgates were confined to chapter houses as fraternities were no longer welcome on the Parade Ground. The change was intended to curb excessive drinking and rowdy behavior as administrators sought to ensure the safety of students in the wake of freshman Maxwell Gruver’s 2017 hazing-related death.
But for this week's big game against Georgia, it was back outside on the campus, although the Parade Ground remained off limits. The turnabout came after Lofton Security Service, Inc., the sole security provider for fraternity tailgates, abruptly severed its ties with Greek organizations.
Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Kurt Keppler said Lofton found itself regularly several employees short for the house tailgates, which was a problem because personnel are needed to secure entrances and exits to each house so that students remain safe.
“If you’re refereeing a football game, and you have a team of five, and two of them don’t show up, your job becomes a lot harder,” he explained.
Keppler also said he was told Lofton personnel felt they “were mistreated, were treated rudely and weren’t respected” at some of the houses.
“All I can say is, I can’t imagine managing a large party — a large beer-bash — on a football day would be easy work for somebody,” he said.
A spokesperson for Lofton Security Service did not respond to a request for comment.
After Lofton’s sudden departure, LSU scrambled to find a way to allow Greeks to tailgate safely under these new parameters without banning tailgating altogether.
The result is that fraternities may now tailgate anywhere on campus — except their chapter houses and the Parade Ground. They must register their planned tailgate location five days in advance, and they must continue to abide by policies regarding alcohol consumption.
“The ball is in their court to show that they can responsibly, safely, legally manage a tailgate,” Keppler said.
Interfraternity Council President Christopher Dupré sees the changes as a chance to earn the trust of the university.
“This is going to be an opportunity for us as a community to show our worth that yes, we can be responsible,” he said. “I know as leaders we can do it, but it’s going to be a greater responsibility to convey that to your everyday member.”
Though LSU Police, Fire Marshals, Alcohol and Tobacco Control agents and Juvenile and Underage Drinking Enforcement agents would be available on campus, Dr. Mari Fuentes-Martin, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students, remains concerned.
“I know that the IFC leadership is very interested in following the rules,” she said. “But those are three or four guys representing the chapter — it’s how the rest of the chapter behaves on game day that determines their success.”
On Saturday, white tents flanked Dalrymple, all the way down to the University Administration building. Unlike the last home game where fraternities were confined to their houses out of the public eye, the mood was lighter, the music louder and the mingling constant.
Chapters, however, were also hyperaware of their precarious position.
Chris Barnett, 20, is the House Manager for Kappa Sigma. His fraternity set up their tailgate across the street from their chapter house. Though the university's policies do not require it, his house hired a sheriff’s deputy to monitor guests entering and exiting the house.
His fraternity is trying to keep up with all the changes, while adding safety measures of their own.
“It’s a different thing every week – different set of rules, different guidelines,” he said. “We’re always adjusting. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. We’re surviving.”
Logan Hornung, 21, is the head of the policy board for Theta Xi and serves as one of the designated sober monitors for his fraternity. He also feels pulled back and forth by the new policy changes.
“It presents a unique challenge where it’s difficult to understand where certain lines are drawn, and especially with the rules changing from week to week,” he said. “It’s hard to make sure that you’re in compliance with every rule that’s set forth by the university.”
Jason Badeaux, of Sigma Phi Epsilon, was more critical. Badeaux, 21, is the former student body president of LSU and served as a student liaison for the Task Force on Greek Life that last year recommended new policies on tailgating. He said he has concerns about how the rules are being implemented.
“We’re seeing people try to implement things so fast and so quickly without looking at the consequences of what they implement, and I think that the culmination of that has been the disorganization in tailgating so far this year,” Badeaux said.
Justin Landry, 21, President of Tau Kappa Epsilon, also questioned the way the new tailgating policies have been implemented and whether they are creating a safer environment for students.
“I hate to say it, but a lot of the security requirements were just a check in the box,” he said. “The security company didn’t really do anything to help us at all. It was all self-enforced from chapter leadership maintaining LSU’s rules.”
He added that after Gruver’s death, the goal was to switch from what he called “checking the box” policies to meaningful policies that would make a difference in the Greek community.
“That was one of the biggest things that opened my eyes as president,” he said. “This is still just checking the box. You’re not doing anything — you’re not making anything safer.”
University officials disagree.
“It’s simple,” LSU President F. King Alexander said in a statement. “Providing a safe environment for our students is our goal.”
Keppler added that he often sees parents complain on social media that LSU is ruining their child’s fun by putting these policies in place.
“My initial response is, ‘What would you say to Mr. and Mrs. Gruver?” he said. “Would you say that to them?”