State Of State Hosts Forum On Penn State Greek Life
Many students and community members alike are familiar with State of State for its popular conference that addresses a wide variety of topics important to the Penn State community each spring. However, the student-run organization came together for a “critical conversation” regarding Greek life Wednesday night in Henderson Building.
The open forum boasted a rather large turnout of Greek and non-Greek students, as well as State College residents eager to voice their opinions on the state of university’s fraternity and sorority culture.
State of State 2016 Executive Director Tess Hamsher greeted the room with opening remarks. The focus then shifted to the six-member panel that was assembled to discuss the role of Greek life at Penn State, its successes and failures in recent years, and what is currently being done to improve its transparency and positive outreach within the community.
Representatives from Penn State’s Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Council, National Pan-Hellenic Council, and Multicultural Greek Council spoke about how Greek life has made a positive influence on their lives and some key things that they believe can be improved on the organizations.
The panel consisted of Assistant Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life Dina Liberatore, IFC President Rick Groves, IFC Vice President For External Risk Management Bill Postufka, Alpha Phi Alpha President Nicholas Azinge III, former Sigma Sigma Rho President Alisha Jaggi, and 2015 Homecoming Executive Director Brandon Rittenhouse.
Each of the panelists sought to answer the question, “What is the impact of Greek life on the Penn State community?” using their unique viewpoints and personal experiences while involved in a leadership role at the university.
Topics of discussion included the notion that fraternities and sororities are essentially non-profit businesses that spend a lot of their time focused on giving back through charitable outreach. For example, a large portion of the THON total each year is directly attributed to the hard work of Penn State’s numerous Greek life chapters.
However, members of the panel acknowledged the need for their chapters to focus on the core values and mission statements that they were founded upon. The new Bystander Intervention Training Program, implemented as part of the university’s 18 accepted Sexual Assault Task Force recommendations, was seen as a step in the right direction by the panel. The training program aims to provide the education and tools necessary to combat high-risk situations for sexual assault.
A handful of community members brought up concerns regarding the relationship between the State College Borough’s homeowners and the houses on Fraternity Row. Postufka mentioned that he meets with the State College Police Department on a weekly basis in order to generate meaningful discussion on which initiatives have been working and which require attention and change.
Students in attendance and members of the panel brought up an overwhelming desire to see their organizations continue to focus on reaching out to involve their fellow students and the State College community.
This “critical conversation” highlighted the positive social and philanthropic aspects of Greek life, while also acknowledging the need for substantial reform on serious issues that continue to persist, namely sexual assault. State of State’s first event of the school year accomplished its goal of facilitating meaningful discussion between all members of the community with hopes of improving Penn State as a whole.