In a recent post from The Collegian, Penn State released the sanctions put in place affecting nearly 19 percent of the student body involved with Greek life.
The Alpha Upsilon chapter of Beta Theta Pi has been banned permanently from the university following the death of a sophomore member. His death occured during a fraternity function, and, as a result, the fraternity as a whole is being held responsible.
Some of the sanctions that were put in place after his death affect not only the Beta Theta Pi chapter but also the entire Greek community at Penn State. For example, formal recruitment has been postponed until the spring of 2018, the number of events that can have alcohol present was limited to 10 per semester (down from 45), a no tolerance policy regarding hazing, and a new monitoring system to oversee events held by Greek organizations.
While some of the sanctions were long overdue, there were some that really struck a chord. The no tolerance policy regarding hazing is one that we both take very seriously here at Ohio State. The fact that Penn State is taking steps to make their Greek organizations safer and more welcoming to all potential members has to be acknowledged as a positive thing. The university also took steps to prevent excessive drinking, which can prevent a lot of other behaviors associated with drinking as well as the Greek community in turn. The limiting of the number of events that can have alcohol at them was also a good plan since it also reduces the risk that the problem of excessive drinking and the monitoring system at events will also make the campus safer for all students.
Another fact that Penn State had to have considered before making this decision was that underage drinking happens on every college campus, regardless of the presence of fraternities and sororities. Greek life is the constant scapegoat for underage drinking when in reality there are many parties across the country that are held by people that aren't affiliated with Greek life at all. The fact that fraternities are specifically targetted in the fight against underage drinking also perpetuates the stereotype that fraternity gentlemen are, in fact, not gentlemen and are not the type of person college age men should want to be. Most of the fraternity men we have met have been nothing but kind, caring, considerate and respectful. While that is not always the case, society and many universities let the few people causing issues spoil the experience for everyone else on campus and in the Greek community. Furthermore, it punishes those chapters who are doing everything right to keep their members safe, rather than rewarding them.
The issue that we have a problem with, as current members of a Greek life organization on our own campus, is the ban on formal recruitment for an entire year. We entirely understand that this issue was the tipping point for Penn State since there have been a lot of issues in the past with the Greek life, as there have been with many universities internationally. However, not every single chapter in a Greek community should have to suffer the consequences of the actions of one chapter. Had neither of us gone through formal recruitment, we would not have found the women we share true and constant friendships with, the women we lean on, and the women who support us unconditionally (even when you want to wear crocs to a party). If recruitment had not been an option the semesters we were eligible to undergo it, we both would not have even bothered to join a sorority. We would have missed out on finding each other (we are a big and little pair who lean on each other constantly), we would have missed out on a sisterhood founded on building strong, independent women, and we would have missed out on a philanthropic cause that quite literally changes lives.
Since we have gone through recruitment and found our home, we know that our sorority not only leaves its mark on us, but we leave our mark on it. If Penn State plans on banning recruitment for an entire year, the entire Greek community will be missing out on hundreds of incredible, philanthropic, and unique individuals that could have wanted to go through recruitment but could not because of a ban. Not only that, but the chapters would have a gap of almost an entire pledge class in their rankings, and the season for recruitment would have to either change or there would be a very different dynamic between the previous pledge class and the upcoming pledge class. Logistically, it would not make sense to change the way every other chapter runs their recruitment because of the faults of one specific incident with one chapter.
The other steps that Penn State took, like adding in the monitoring system and the RAMP certified servers for alcohol, were very well thought out steps to prevent incidents like the event that caused these sanctions to come about. These sanctions would allow the Greek community to not have such a sudden and large impact on them, but it would be a constant reminder that, as college-age students, they are not always going to be in one hundred percent control. It would remind them that while having fun is a big part of their lifestyle, it's more important to keep everyone at the party or function safe; these are their brothers and sisters after all.
The University of Connecticut had a very similar situation occur with the Epsilon Pi chapter of Delta Gamma. A member died after being struck by a car during a night of excessive drinking and the chapter was closed permanently, but there was no ban placed on other Greek organizations for their recruitment or social allowances. In our opinion, this was an effective way to deal with the problem of excessive drinking coinciding with the passing of a member. The chapter that had the issue was taken care of, and the other organizations that were not involved were not punished because they had not done anything wrong.
By banning the recruitment of all organizations for an entire year only perpetuates the stereotype that all Greek organizations do is party and cause trouble on campus. This is nowhere near the truth; chapters from all across the world have a philanthropic duty to give back to the communities that serve them, as well as to create and to inspire young men and women to become the best versions of themselves through the organization and community they are a part of.
The stereotypes of Greek organizations have it all wrong—our chapter, and even our friends' chapters have given us nothing but love, support, and an environment to positively grow in the time we've been a part of them. Penn State should not prevent the continuation of the next generation of young men and women because of the unfortunate events that happened in one chapter. They should allow all current and future members of the Greek community at University Park to grow and to foster the strong relationships between their brothers and sisters. The next round of new members should not be penalized and not allowed to join a chapter because of something that happened when these students haven't even put down their deposit yet.
Our college experiences have been positively shaped by our participation in them, and we cannot imagine our lives without our sisters. Everyone should have the chance to find their home in the Greek community.