Editorial: KU’s greek life needs reforms

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

If the University of Kansas truly wants to get serious about addressing the “systemic problems” plaguing fraternities at the school, perhaps it should follow the lead of its rival to the east, the University of Missouri.

Missouri recently released an 18-page report filled with recommendations to clean up its greek system, which a consultant deemed last fall to be dysfunctional and dangerous. The report, produced by a committee comprised of students in fraternities and sororities at Mizzou that met over the course of the spring semester, calls for strict changes to the greek system, including amnesty for reporting hazing, limits on alcohol at social events, the use of third-party vendors with security and trained servers for social functions, limits on freshmen living in fraternity houses, a shift in recruitment from summer to fall and a decrease in the time that individuals can be considered pledges, among others.

The sweeping reforms at Mizzou still must be signed off on by the chancellor before being implemented. Gary Ward, Missouri’s interim vice chancellor for student affairs, called the proposed changes the most significant in the past 50 years of greek life at Mizzou.

The changes certainly stand out when compared to what’s happening at KU.

In March, KU’s Interfraternity Council instituted an indefinite freeze on alcohol at fraternity events, while the leaders worked with the KU administration to address what they termed “behavioral issues.”

The announcement of the freeze came just days after the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at KU announced it would close after numerous health and safety violations. The SAE chapter’s closure followed the suspension of Delta Upsilon and Sigma Phi Epsilon. Beta Theta Pi faced possible suspension before being placed on probation instead.

Specific details behind the closure and suspensions were not provided; however, the problems captured the attention of Chancellor Douglas Girod.

“Many students have a great experience in fraternity life, do the right things and engage in meaningful philanthropy, service and leadership,” Girod said when the freeze was announced. “Even so, there are systemic problems related to student conduct within our IFC community that we must address.”

But just four days after the freeze was announced, the governing board of the IFC voted to end the freeze, arguing that the members of the executive committee had been improperly pressured by university administrators to implement it. KU administrators, including Girod, backed off, deciding to let the fraternities police themselves.

Student leaders said they would create a plan to address many of the issues that had led to the freeze. So far, no such plan has been released, though IFC members said they were considering policies such as an amnesty program for reporting hazing, pledge period reforms, a requirement that greek houses maintain guest lists for their social activities, increased alumni outreach and abuse prevention training.

Missouri isn’t alone in its aggressive approach to reforming its greek system. On campuses around the country, students and administrators are working together to preserve the greek system, while also finally putting an end to behavior that has put far too many students in harm’s way. KU would be wise to embrace similar reforms for its greek system.


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