Penn State’s Board of Trustees met Friday at the Penn Stater in State College for an off-cycle Board meeting to discuss “significant changes” to Penn State Greek life. Penn State President Eric Barron ultimately outlined a plan that doesn’t seem like it’ll add much to the current reforms imposed during the spring semester.
“The current Greek life structure at Penn State is not sustainable and cannot continue in our current form,” Board Chairman Ira Lubert opened the meeting. Following Lubert’s brief remarks, he invited Barron to the stage to present the plan Penn State will implement to reform Greek Life.
Likely the most drastic measure, Penn State will now control the misconduct process for Greek life, taking this responsibility out of the hands of the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Council. The university will establish a new group of 8-10 individuals responsible for frequently spot-checking fraternity houses, especially during social events.
To pay for all this, the university will now charge Greek members a capitation fee “for support of extra services, spot-checkers/monitors, and educational activities.” It’s important to note that this fee won’t be charged to all students — only Greek members.
On the other hand, administrators believe having students involved in Greek life sign a “relationship statement” to clarify rights and responsibilities is a good solution to convince students to take more personal responsibility “because they have their name on something.” Basically, this would be a sort of code of conduct or honor code for Greek members. With the track record of Greek misconduct, this measure seems like a drop in the bucket.
Parent education will also be more readily available, including making Greek life report cards available and providing “messages [for the parents]to reinforce with their students.” Those going through rush will also be required to go through additional education programs on Greek life issues, including bystander intervention.
Penn State already has a zero-tolerance policy for hazing, but Barron said hazing will now result in a swift permanent revocation of the chapter’s recognition by the university. Beta Theta Pi was permanently banned from Penn State last semester. The university will also lobby for legislation against hazing and encourage other institutions to do the same.
The deferred recruitment policy will continue, not allowing first-semester freshmen to rush. A slide projected behind Barron indicated only juniors and seniors should live in the fraternity houses.
The strict social regulations imposed in the past few months will also be upheld. These regulations were announced following the hazing death of student Tim Piazza after he fell multiple times during a bid acceptance party at Beta Theta Pi fraternity.
Piazza’s parents released a letter to the Board of Trustees ahead of its meeting calling for strict sanctions and the firing of Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims and athletic trainer and Beta Theta Pi’s live-in advisor Tim Bream. Needless to say, to our current knowledge, no one was fired at this meeting.
“These significant changes set a new standard among universities dealing with the challenges of Greek-letter communities,” Lubert said in a press release. “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.”
Only time will tell.