Penn State Comes Up Short When Greek Life Needs It Most
I want to start by saying I had no intention of ever going Greek. As an eager freshman, I could not have been less interested in rushing a sorority. But my sophomore year I found myself going through recruitment and ultimately finding a group of inspiring and intelligent women I now call my friends. Before you stop reading, this isn’t a love letter to my sorority or Greek life in general. A lot of people don’t have much love for the Greek community right now, and I understand the criticism.
I’ve been on both sides of the fence. While I’m disappointed with how the university has reacted to this tragedy, I understand the drinking and social changes the administration decided to implement. However, there are several areas where those administrators and I don’t meet eye to eye.
Specifically, I’m questioning how Panhellenic fits into this puzzle. The press release distributed by the university identified several areas of concern that led to making these decisions and imposing significant regulations. Do I believe Greek life has imperfections? Of course. As a Panhellenic community, we can always improve, but I fail to comprehend how the direct actions of Panhellenic women warrant all these dramatic changes.
Since 2009, two sororities have had their charters revoked at Penn State: Delta Delta Delta and Chi Omega. Panhellenic hasn’t dealt with hazing allegations — or really any other significant scandal — in years. This is not the case for fraternities. Beta Theta Pi is permanently suspended and Kappa Delta Rho and Phi Kappa Tau are in the midst of multiple-year suspensions.
I don’t mean to frame this as a fraternity vs. sorority issue. At its core, the entire Greek community needs to do better.
Approximately 17 percent of Penn State students are affiliated with a Greek organization. As Greeks, we have a responsibility to represent our national chapters and our university as best we can. But the university owes it to Panhel and other Greek-letter organizations to differentiate an IFC issue from a Panhellenic issue and to not demonize an entire community because a fraction is flawed.
I know the university says that these regulations are not a punishment — they are protective measures to ensure student safety. That’s why I’m not arguing the drinking policies because, frankly, I understand them. The university can’t continue to look the other way in cases of underage drinking or excessive consumption of alcohol — it’s a danger and a liability.
However, it’s not the regulations themselves that make this feel like a punishment. It’s the timing. If the university was truly dedicated to reforming the Greek community, it had ample time to do so.
Take a look at Panhellenic recruitment. Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims clarified last week that recruitment will now take place in two parts. In the fall, students who have completed 14 credits and have a GPA above a 2.5 will be allowed to participate in rush. Essentially, the university is preventing freshman from participating in fall recruitment. Freshmen and any other interested students will have the opportunity to participate in an additional recruitment at the beginning of the spring semester.
In principle, I agree that Penn State recruitment should occur in the spring. Your first semester at college comes with a significant adjustment period, especially in the first two weeks. Adding recruitment and a life commitment to an organization is overwhelming.
The university’s decision to split recruitment and announce the change in April as opposed to September, however, is inconsiderate and shows how detached administrators are from students. As my sorority’s recruitment chair, it’s clear to the Panhellenic community that university officials have turned an exciting opportunity into a disaster.
These decisions could have been made years — or even just months — ago when the initial Greek moratorium was announced. Instead, the university waited until tragedy struck and then blamed everyone but itself for negligence. As a Panhellenic member, I feel unheard and misrepresented for the sake of simplicity and the fact that the university wants to act swiftly in light of tragedy.
If one thing about this situation is evident, it’s that the Greek community is fractured. But instead of offering resources for improvement, Penn State shattered the system and left its members stranded and scrambling to pick up the pieces.