Penn State's Board of Trustees today (June 2) supported a comprehensive set of new University initiatives focused on reforming the Greek-letter community. The new measures include an unprecedented transfer of responsibility to the University for disciplinary matters, which may include stringent sanctions for violations. These actions build upon a decade of efforts to address ongoing challenges associated with Greek-letter organizations.
Alcohol misuse among students is a challenge at nearly every college and university, including at Penn State. The problem is particularly vexing among fraternities and sororities across the country because the self-governance model of Greek life has failed to bring an end to excessive drinking, hazing, sexual assault and overly large disruptive gatherings within their organizations. The University and board are committed to implementing solutions that create a fundamental shift for Greek life in an effort to refocus on the positive aspects of these organizations.
"Our University community continues to mourn the death of student Tim Piazza and again sends our deepest sympathies to the Piazza family," said Penn State President Eric Barron. "I am resolved to turn the pain and anguish radiating through our entire community into decisive action and reform, concentrating on the safety and well-being of students at Penn State. These new safety and reform initiatives represent a significant departure from the Greek system's broken self-governance model and indicate steps necessary to address the complex problems."
New measures include:
- University control of the fraternity and sorority organizational misconduct and adjudication process.
- Hazing that involves alcohol, physical abuse, or any behavior that puts a student's mental or physical health at risk will result in swift permanent revocation of University recognition for the chapter involved.
- Transition to deferred recruitment/rush process for fraternities and sororities.
- Strict social restrictions.
- Monitoring of social events by University staff members.
- Relationship statement signed by all fraternity and sorority members that clarifies the respective rights and responsibilities of the University, the chapters and their respective members.
- Further parent education: availability of report card, messages to reinforce with their students.
- Capitation fee for support of extra services, spot-checkers/monitors, and educational activities.
There are other measures being discussed and will be instituted over time — all with a focus on prevention, monitoring and enforcement. These measures augment a series of actions taken earlier this year, which are being made permanent.
Barron will appoint a Greek Response Team, including government affairs and community relations, legal, police and student affairs, which will be responsible for directing and overseeing the implementation of these initiatives — reporting directly to the president on progress. This group will coordinate with local law enforcement, campus police and neighborhoods.
"The changes require significant shifts in the relationship among fraternities, sororities and the University," said Barron. "But true change will not happen without the chapters, alumni boards, housing boards, councils, and national organizations commitment and partnership in putting student safety first, and encouraging chapter members to bring safety issues to the forefront."
Recently, the North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) also acknowledged that the fraternities' self-governance model is broken and has failed to prevent serious excessive drinking problems on college campuses. But NIC needs to take this further, including addressing the contradictory incentive created by its risk management policies that may deter individuals from calling 911 in emergency situations, according to University leaders.
In addition, the University has begun critical conversations regarding legislative initiatives for the entire student population:
- Support for a congressional proposal to expand Clery Act reporting to include hazing violations;
- Continue discussions with state officials on ways to strengthen penalties for hazing, especially hazing that includes alcohol, and on increased statewide educational initiatives on the dangers of hazing and dangerous drinking; and
- Advocate to expand the current law on Medical Amnesty for Underage Drinking to apply to the individual who requires medical assistance.
"The board supports the important actions taken today by University leadership," said Penn State Board of Trustees Chair Ira Lubert. "These significant changes set a new standard among universities dealing with the challenges of Greek-letter communities. We hope this is a start for our fraternities and sororities to address these serious problems and focus on the more positive contributions these individuals and organizations make here at Penn State and beyond."