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U. frats: Ban booze now

Under the best of circumstance, it's sometimes hard to get along with your neighbors.

But when your neighbors are cavorting at all hours of the night, playing loud music, drinking and trashing the neighborhood, it's understandable when relationships sour.We empathize with residents of the Federal Heights neighborhood who say have been negatively impacted by University of Utah fraternities. They've had their fill of the late-night hijinks. They've asked the Salt Lake City Council to ban alcohol use in the fraternities scattered about their neighborhood.

The council's options are not yet clear. The fraternity houses are privately owned, and many of the fraternity brothers are 21 years old -- the legal drinking age. One thing is clear: Something has to change.

The fraternities have promised to rein in their activities, and city police have stepped up their enforcement on weekends in response to previous incidents, which have included a near riot three years ago, an alleged sexual assault and a fire.

To hear Federal Heights residents tell it, essentially nothing has changed.

Absent some change in policy, the problems are almost sure to continue.

The news that some fraternities at the U. are going dry -- largely under pressure from their national organizations -- is heartening. Already, sororities at the U. have a self-imposed alcohol ban inside their houses. A policy shift within the fraternities themselves seems to be the most logical means to address the issue.

While the community trusted that the fraternities were sincere when they promised reform, the nature of fraternities is that there is a constant turnover of residents as students graduate or find housing elsewhere. Yesterday's handshake and promise is quickly forgotten.

Fraternities at the U. need to do some soul searching about alcohol use in their houses. We urge them to follow the example of the fraternities that have gone dry. Alcohol isn't a necessary element of fraternity life.

The best course is for fraternities to deal with this problem internally. The less lawyering, the better. An internal change can happen immediately. An all-out ban on alcohol would likely face a court challenge, which would delay any meaningful change and worsen already strained relations among neighbors.