Transparency Builds Trust: An Open Letter To IFC & UPUA

For the first time in over a decade, Penn State’s fraternities can host registered socials during State Patty’s Weekend, which is slated to take place between February 24 and 26. Penn State Interfraternity Council (IFC) President Kyle Quinn confirmed the development in an email to Onward State on Tuesday.

While Quinn revealed the information in an email, it wasn’t in an attempt to spread the word. He asked if Onward State, as well as other student media outlets, would refrain from publishing anything before this weekend in order for it to not “be advertised to the world via the internet, which would likely result in many unwelcomed out-of-town visitors coming to State College, causing problems, and putting strain on our hardworking EMS personnel,” he wrote.

Furthermore, Quinn noted that this year is a test to see if fraternities can handle organized events on State Patty’s Day, saying it could go either “well or bad.” While he did acknowledge that Onward State and other outlets have the right to post whatever they please, he asked “from one Penn State student to another” to not advertise this in order to secure the “safety and security” of Penn State.

University Park Undergraduate Association President Sydney Gibbard echoed Quinn’s thoughts in an email sent to Onward State, encouraging us not to post anything before this weekend to reduce “press driving turnout up at these socials and other events during State Patty’s.”

“Unregistered socials are inevitable, but they don’t have the safety infrastructure in place to hold students accountable and keep them safe during a high-risk weekend,” Gibbard wrote in the email. “Registered socials have restrictions such as the kind of alcohol they can serve, the capacity of the event, and the required sober brothers to monitor the house.”

For starters, the fact that this is happening is a big deal. It’s the first time in over a decade that Penn State fraternities are allowed to host registered events during State Patty’s Weekend. That’s news, and we’re a news organization. Of course we’re going to write about it, as it’s the public’s right to know. Other student-run outlets may be keeping quiet, but we’re not going to.

However, that’s not the main point. Not only is the logic behind the emails asinine, but the attempt to hide the information demonstrates a clear lack of transparency, which is a dangerous line to walk.

The logic is simply flawed. Referring to Quinn’s email, I could potentially see if the end goal is to prevent outside visitors from coming to town. However, it’s just delaying the problem to next year when everyone will know about it anyway. So is the goal to just push the chaos off for one year?

According to Gibbard’s email, registered socials have restrictions in place to create a safe environment, as noted earlier on in this story. If those in charge are confident in the protocols and follow them strictly, why would the IFC be concerned with outsiders coming in or worried about word spreading around? Protocols are supposed to eliminate potential danger, and if they don’t in this case, then appropriate action needs to be taken.

From the outside looking in, it appears those in charge aren’t confident in the protocols put in place and are scared of the potential ramifications from the weekend. In a follow-up statement sent to Onward State, Quinn outlined some of the safety precautions that are being put in place for State Patty’s Weekend and explained that registered socials are more responsible than unregistered events, which is completely fair. Quinn noted that there will be emergency response plans, no hard alcohol, and RAMP-certified/sober bartenders, among other protocols, in place. That full statement is at the bottom of this story.

However, it’s still hard to understand why this is being kept a “secret.” Rumors have been swirling, but no one is “allowed” to say anything about it. As I said, if proper protocols are put in place and there’s confidence across the board, then there shouldn’t, in theory, be any issues.

Honestly, it’s also a sketchy way of operating. The issue I’m raising isn’t about whether hosting registered socials during State Patty’s is a good idea. Despite all crime statistics generally being on a downward trend since the last time fraternities hosted socials in 2011, that’s not what this is about, and that’s not my decision, though, the university is in fact against fraternities hosting registered socials during that weekend.

“The IFC demonstrated great leadership in previous years by not permitting registered social events on the Friday and Saturday of this weekend,” Penn State spokesperson Lisa Powers said in a statement. “We again strongly encouraged them to do the same, as their past efforts limited the impact on the Highlands neighborhood and the local community. We are disappointed that the IFC is choosing this path, as we should be working together to reduce high-risk and dangerous drinking that results in a strain on our hospital, police and EMS resources, as well as has a significant negative impact on students.”

“In sharing with us their approach, the IFC believes their processes and risk management efforts will promote safer registered social events than private, unregistered events,” she continued. “We strongly encourage our IFC chapters to take the weekend’s activities seriously and remind all students to be responsible members of our community.”

This is about the shady way it’s being hidden and the attempt to silence others who may want to share this information. The IFC owes it to the community and the student body to be completely truthful and offer up all information, ahead of time, about State Patty’s Weekend. And, as the president of the student body, it’s on Gibbard to lead by example and promote transparency for the students she leads on a day-to-day basis.

What precedent does it set if the UPUA president is admittedly on board with hiding information from students and community members? Her attempt to keep “hush hush” about the State Patty’s news is particularly damning.

This is the person who directly represents Penn State students and is supposed to act in the best interest of the student body. This isn’t even the first time these actions have surfaced, either, as a few months back, she asked to not be included in Onward State’s article about secret societies, as we reported that she was a member of Skull & Bones.

“I have no comment and would really appreciate not being included in this article, as the organization I am trying to lead has addressed this topic this year in great detail, and we have moved forward to focus on our projects and bettering the lives of students on campus,” she wrote back in November.

The public should know about the alleged steps being taken to improve Greek Life and how it’s supposedly becoming a safer environment. This is a story that goes back over a decade, as the tragic deaths of Timothy Piazza and Joe Dado both took place in fraternity-related events.

There’s a clear lack of trust when it comes to Greek Life and the outside community. Transparency builds trust. Instead of trying to silence media outlets, the IFC and UPUA should be encouraging them to spread the word about the alleged positive changes being made and be confident in the protocols put in place.

Gibbard didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Quinn’s full statement can be read below.

The IFC will allow fraternities to register their social events during this State Patty’s weekend. This is not a move we make for the sake of encouraging reckless partying, but actually the opposite. When an IFC chapter registers a social with Penn State, the events have formal risk management procedures, sober monitors, emergency response plans, no hard alcohol, and RAMP-certified/sober bartenders. Most importantly, a representative from Penn State will come by and walk through the social to ensure all safety policies are being followed. 

Registered socials are significantly more organized, responsible, and safer than the alternative: unregistered socials. These are the real problem. Where registered events promote safety and security, unregistered events have been known to have zero sober guests, no risk management procedures, and no oversight from Penn State. The IFC Board predicts that if we ban socials again this year, fraternities will have the same parties with the same number of people at off-campus senior houses, or even in their own backyards. This is, of course, against IFC and PSU policy and we would respond to such incidents accordingly, but we would rather prevent these dangerous events from happening in the first place. The IFC allows social registrations on Halloween and Whiteout weekends, two events that also have many out-of-town visitors and a history of drinking. Because fraternities register those socials with Penn State, we are able to manage the masses and operate safe events. 

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

After a four-year career with Onward State, Gabe is now a college graduate and off to the real world. He shockingly served as the blog’s managing editor during the 2022-23 school year and covered football for much of his Onward State tenure, including trips to the Outback Bowl and Rose Bowl. For any professional inquiries, please email Gabe at [email protected]. You can still see his bad sports takes on Twitter at @gabeangieri.

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