President Barron Details University Struggles Reforming Greek Life, Issues Plan For National Database In PennLive Op-Ed
Penn State President Eric Barron and university administrators have faced questions about the university’s role in preventing tragedies from hazing and dangerous drinking in the past year since the death of Tim Piazza at the Beta Theta Pi on-campus house.
In an op-ed for PennLive, Barron detailed the university’s new measures to find a solution to combat these issues, while also focusing on the roadblocks that Penn State has faced in making its actions viable.
“Penn State is committed to taking a lead on these issues nationally among universities, but we and other similarly committed universities cannot do it alone,” Barron wrote.
Barron detailed the struggles with Greek organizations, both national bodies and local chapters, that he says have not been cooperative in the university’s initiative.
“While we continue to see progress on many fronts at Penn State, we also face frustrating obstacles put in place by a number of organizations whose priorities are not aligned with our commitment to safety, accountability, and cooperation,” Barron wrote.
The organizations include three fraternities — Alpha Chi Rho, Alpha Sigma Phi, and Sigma Alpha Mu — that have had their chapters suspended by Penn State, but are still recognized by their national organizations. Barron says that operating in this way allows the local chapter to work as an “unaffiliated, independent” group that is not subject to university drop-in monitoring.
He also detailed a current legal dispute with fraternity house landlords, many of who are alumni of the organizations whose members live in the house the landlords own. Certain landlords are fighting a municipal ordinance that prohibits groups of unrelated individuals not recognized by the university as a fraternity from living together in the same house. Barron says that if the landlords succeed in this legal battle, chapters can operate on their own, which would derail the ability to reform.
Barron also requested that for the university to be able to successfully reform the Greek system, individuals must be willing to speak up and report wrongdoing.
“We know, real change cannot take place without the willingness of our own community members to come forward with concrete information needed to successfully investigate,” Barron wrote. “The tendency of some to lean toward secrecy, at potential detriment to the common good, must be reconsidered.”
As for the steps the university is taking at reform, Barron stated that it has suspended 14 fraternities and sororities, updated policies regarding Responsible Action Protocol, advocated for changes to current laws, among other works.
The university is also calling on universities to collectively work together and form a national safety database — similar to Penn State’s Greek Score Card, it allows administrators at universities nationwide the ability to view the past history of different Greek organizations, while also providing parents and students a resource to inform them about different fraternities and sororities prior to pledging.
“We all have a role to play. At Penn State, we will not rest in our efforts, and we are committed to leading in the search for solutions to these serious, complex challenges,” Barron wrote.
You can check out the full PennLive op-ed here.