Fraternities roll out drink testing kits and fundraise to purchase more

Grace Jackson, News Reporter

Whitman’s four fraternities purchased drink testing kits at the beginning of the semester, based on a suggestion from sorority members. Now, the Inter Fraternal Council (IFC) is fundraising to purchase more. 

After a year when social gatherings of more than 15 people were banned, Greek leaders have been grappling with how to safely return to hosting parties. 

According to a 2016 University of South Carolina study, almost eight percent of a group of approximately 6,000 students surveyed across three universities reported having their drink spiked with a dissociative drug. So called “date-rape drugs”, like Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), can be difficult to detect in toxicology tests because of their short half-lives and can be dangerous when combined with alcohol.  

Junior and Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) president Ben Daume told The Wire that the fraternity purchased 200 kits that test for the drugs ketamine and GHB. Daume said that Greek life social policy was revised earlier this semester to make parties safer and that each chapter was taking its own efforts as well. The test takes approximately 30 seconds and will be administered by the chapter member tasked with overseeing the drinks. 

The liquid overseer position became a requirement during the 2016-17 school year, after a series of druggings at parties shocked the campus community. The first report of a student being drugged was submitted to the Dean of Students office on Oct. 30, 2016. Over the course of two weekends, 10 students reported being slipped dissociative drugs at parties. The victims were primarily women, but included one man. After an investigation by the College and the Walla Walla Police Department, one student withdrew in Nov. 2016 for allegedly supplying the drugs used. Two more drugging instances occurred in April of 2017. No announcement has ever been made as to if the perpetrator was identified or penalized. 

Daume noted that despite these druggings occurring three years before he arrived at Whitman, they were on the minds of the Greek leaders who crafted the new social policy.

TKE rolled out the drug tests for the first time at a party the weekend of Oct. 12. The fraternity has been on social probation for much of the semester after allegations that a student was drugged on the property, according to Daume. 

“Everyone knew that it had happened in years past and I definitely took it as ‘oh this happened here? That’s serious,’” Daume said. “So this past semester when we had the allegations come to us, we all took that very seriously. We wanted to figure out what happened and to respect the person involved and that process.”

No timely warning was released by the college about this instance. 

IFC has sponsored several fundraisers to purchase more test kits, including a trivia night that took place in the Reid Campus Center basement on Friday, Oct. 12. Daume said that the turnout was pretty minimal for this fundraiser and that they only raised around 75 dollars. He hopes to raise more for the cause in the future.

Senior and IFC president Alex Pratt added that the fundraiser was organized by members of TKE.

“In my capacity as IFC, we just sponsored the event. While it was focused [on] TKE given the current situation, we hope to make all parties on campus safe for everybody,” Pratt said in an email to The Wire. “I personally think there are better ways that IFC can promote sexual violence prevention, but I think TKE is doing their best to throw safe parties.”