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Penn State Initiates Radical Changes to Greek Life

The Board of Trustees at Penn State has announced all Greek life at the school will be reformed with initiatives that transfer all disciplinary responsibility to the University. The school has accepted that the self-governance model of Greek life has failed to regulate hazing, underage drinking, and sexual assault. Eric Barron, Penn State’s president, said “We are going to take much more control of the Greek system.”

The decision comes after the death of 19-year-old sophomore Timothy Piazza, who fell while intoxicated and sustained serious head injuries.  An investigation into the death of Piazza led school officials to discover “a persistent pattern of serious alcohol abuse, hazing and the use and sale of illicit drugs” at the fraternity. The fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, has been permanently banned as a chapter at the university. Barron said, “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.”

At Penn State, the new ruling is an effort to get Greek organizations to recognize the best of their missions—leadership and philanthropy—rather than the secretive, dangerous and unhealthy aspects. New regulations listed by Penn State 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.
  • Monitoring of social events by University staff members.
  • Beer and wine will only be permitted, no hard liquor or kegs.
  • Organizations may no longer hold all day events and each chapter is limited to 10 socials with alcohol per semester, instead of the current 45.

Fraternity culture has continued to frustrate colleges and universities across the country. The North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) has acknowledged that fraternities’ self-governance model is broken and has failed to prevent problems on campuses nationwide. According to Inside Higher Ed, in the past academic year, at least 80 fraternity chapters were suspended or investigated over allegations of racism, hazing, alcohol abuse and sexual assault. The Huffington Post found that over 30 fraternities were suspended just in the month of February.

As fraternities and sororities continue to face increased scrutiny, it seems many schools are looking to fix a broken system. According to Emily Pualwan, executive director of Hazing Prevention, “A lot of institutions are looking at what Penn State does and will look over the next few years at the effectiveness of these measures, if it can be measured.” If Penn State’s institutionally run fraternal system does work, it may set a new precedent for how Greek-life operates on campuses in the future.

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